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As a boy growing up on the West Coast of Berbice I looked forward to Easter. By now our kites would have been made, which was usually a communal effort. Who couldn’t afford the kite paper bought from the stores, used their creativity and papered their kites from the pages of newspapers. Who couldn’t afford paste or didn’t want to use the store bought paste resorted to flour paste or used clama cherry (a little wild berry that has a sticky juice). As I grew older, I came to appreciate that kite flying symbolises the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Ears were attached to the two sides of the kite. The tail of the kite was made from strips of cloth, either from used clothing or the scraps given by seamstresses and tailors in the village. For the daring amongst us a razor blade was discreetly placed in the tail to ‘cut down’ other kites. It was serious competition to see whose kite could fly the highest, stay up the longest, sing the loudest, and was the best designed. We took this childhood creativity seriously. Some even cried when their labour of love didn’t perform as expected or was cut down by another.
Easter was akin to Christmas in festivities. Ginger beer, rice wine, cake, buns, homemade ice cream and other treats were made. On Easter Sunday we got up early, prepared and left for church. We’d return home to a scrumptious meal, and later head to the ball field and fly our kites. On Easter Monday, which is the big day, we’d return to the ball field, from in the morning to flying kites and having fun. There were Easter Monday parties at the schools, starting around 2:00 p.m. The early start was to accommodate children who attended to buy ice cream and buns.
Easter Sunday is a very solemn day in the Christian Calendar. It marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for man’s redemption. The redemption, which Christ preached, speaks to pursuing a new path and the willingness to embrace values that would bring harmony and peaceful co-existence among fellowman, and for the Believers eternal life. He taught us not only how to treat persons irrespective of their diversity, but also because of their diversity. This was exemplified throughout His life’s work.
What pivotally stands out for me was His equal embrace of others. He reached out to those not of His tribe; treated women, children and other vulnerable groups with respect; chastised those who sought to discriminate against others. He was understanding and compassionate to human frailties even as He remained unwavering to God’s conviction and His mission on earth. From an early age Christians were taught the hymnal:
“Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Easter presents an opportunity to reflect on Christ’s work and sacrifice. It usually sees the redoubling of commitment to practice His teachings, and though at times such will be at odds with the things others do, its wisdom and premium remain unshakeable.
The oneness of humankind has not only influenced the Christian outlook to life, but is adumbrated in United Nations Declaration, International Labour Organisation Conventions, the Constitution of Guyana, among other charters that uphold the principle of common humanity, mutual respect and equal protection.
Yet this Easter finds a nation torn asunder by political triumphalism and racial intolerance; marred by greed, poor governance, increasing corruption, marginalisation, discrimination against individuals and groups based on identity, for exercising their right to free choice/association. It is a nation that has become spiritually sick, not living up to ideals that undergird Christianity and our laws. Many are hamstrung by uncertainty and deprived through hate and victimisation.
Head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Exon Clarke, in his message at the Day of Prayer, held on the Square of the Revolution, said it best –“A country cannot express oneness by virtue of its wealth but rather by the wealth of its virtue. Fasting must be the fuel for a feast of forgiveness, respect, compassion, honour, pride, harmony, unity and love. When this is achieved, we’ll access the glory of the Lord which shall rest on our country.” It could only be hoped that not only the masses heard him but also the political directorate who plays a decisive role in fostering a nation of one.