– “The glory of God is a human being fully alive” – St Irenaeus
Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan. I’ve just returned from a memorial service on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Christ Church and St John’s Catholic Church.
As I walked the final yards beyond the security cordon to the join the 4000 or so others gathered in the dusty courtyard, children danced along beside me practising their English.
“Hello, how are you, Mister? Hello, Mister, what’s your name?” they repeated one after another, never stopping long enough for me to practice my faltering Urdu.
What’s your name, I ponder.
I was there to remember 21 names. A large banner at the front of the open-air service bore their images as well as these names. Each killed tragically as they went as disciples to worship exactly a year ago.
Their names are remembered.
In the ancient Near East your name was more than just words. Your name was identity, your name was chosen to be reflective of your character, or at least what your parents hoped your character might be.
The Christians of Youhanabad, like others in Pakistan and many more across the Anglican Communion, live daily under the shadow of violence. Yet at the memorial service and then in the afternoon as we talked about how to live in such moments and still flourish, I witnessed singing, joy and a sense of hope that seemed ready to burst out of the courtyard.
As the afternoon concluded, we were reminded of some of the names that are attributed to Jesus. Beautiful one, Prince of Peace, Counsellor, Light of the World, True Vine, Teacher.
We were reminded that God knows each of our names and that they are carved on his hands. It was a powerful reminder of the call to follow Jesus, to be a disciple, whatever the cost.
The speaker finished with a Mexican proverb: “They buried us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
I spent the evening with a group of Pakistani Christians including Rabina*, who overcame deep poverty, fear and violence to become a counsellor supporting many of the families affected by what happened at Youhanabad, to help them deepen their faith and live in fullness in spite of all that they see around them.
At the Anglican Alliance we remain committed to enabling each name, each person whose identity is linked to it, to flourish and become who they were created to be in Christ – new creations, each bringing glory to God as they become fully alive, to paraphrase the second century bishop St Irenaeus.
We pray that each individual trafficked, like Shen* from Vietnam, might once again know they are beautiful and free. We advocate and connect churches to be aware and take practical action. We encourage inter-religious collaboration locally and globally, such as the initiative that resulted in a joint declaration on ending modern day slavery signed by global religious leaders.
We work alongside those who are affected by violence or the threat of violence, like Evangeliste* in Burundi, that they might experience the peace that Jesus comes to bring, and we support churches across Europe as they seek to open their doors and hearts to those fleeing fighting in the Middle East.
We continue journeying with those seeking to change how we treat the climate, that they might know the Light of the World’s presence and see this light intervene in the hearts and minds of those who continue to degrade the environment and in the lives of those who make decisions about how we use our resources now and in the future. That as disciples we might move from scarcity to abundance.
As Easter approaches, may we once again be reminded that it did not look good at the cross.
May we know the truth that from death comes resurrection, and may we pray for all those around the Communion clinging to the hope that they may experience this in very tangible ways.
May each of us continue to follow the one who overcomes, becoming more like the Teacher in living in a way that lets the poor, the vulnerable and those on the margins flourish in the centre of the family.
Photo: Memorial service on the first anniversary of the Youhanabad, Lahore, terrorist attacks. Credit: Andy Bowerman/Anglican Alliance