An Easter message from Turkey
You may be aware that Christians around the world do not celebrate Easter on the same day. For example, this year (2005), many Protestant groups celebrate Easter on March 27, while many Orthodox groups celebrate it five Sundays later, on May 1. In the same way, Lent begins on different days for different Christians and lasts for different periods. Some people regard this as a scandal, a detraction from the ideal of Christian unity.
Here in Istanbul, Turkey, Christians form a small minority in a largely Muslim culture. But within this Christian minority there is a great diversity of Christian traditions. There are Orthodox groups of various sorts (Armenian, Greek, Syrian), Catholic groups, and Protestants. A friend says that in one apartment building there can be Muslims, Christians, and Jews living together. In the spring, the Muslim residents have been heard to remark that every week somebody in the building seems to be celebrating Easter!
Every Christian group has its traditions surrounding Lent, Palm Sunday, and Easter week, traditions involving food and cooking, fasting and feasting, and various other practices. As each group re-lives its traditions, outsiders can be easily bewildered by the variety.
It seems to us that rather than being a scandal, this diversity of practice offers a richness. It certainly makes it easier to attend each other’s Easter-related celebrations and rituals. We can attend an Orthodox Easter celebration rite on one day, and invite our Orthodox friends to attend ours on another. Perhaps in your city or town, you can look around and take advantage of the same thing. You can add the richness of various Christian Easter celebrations to your lives.
It is our privilege as appointees of the Common Global Ministries Board to represent the congregations of the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ here in Turkey. It is our task to promote interfaith understanding as we live and work with many varieties of Christians, as well as Muslims and Jews. Because of the support we receive from the Disciples-UCC congregations, we are able to work ecumenically in Istanbul on common projects of faith and service. For instance, we share responsibility with Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians for helping some of the many refugees and migrants in Istanbul. We also get together with representatives of these groups to plan the annual World Day of Prayer service in Istanbul.
It is always a marvel and a testimony to the grace of God that we are able to carry on with these activities in spite of the divisions between us in language, history, tradition, and politics.
With greetings of grace and peace at Easter,
Ken and Betty Frank
Ken & Betty Frank serve as missionaries with the Near East Mission, assigned to the American Collegiate Institute, Izmir Amerikan Lisesi. Ken is a teacher of math and works in the area of Christian-Muslim Relations. Betty serves as the librarian and also works in the area of Christian-Muslim relations.