Friday was chilly for our town’s annual procession that reenacts the Crucifixion. But today the sun shone and everyone went to our church to mark the Resurrection, while the bells tolled Christ is Risen. Then they headed out for family meals to mark the end of Lent.
Very early, on the first day of the week, just after sunrise they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb?” Mark 16: 2,3
For 118 days we lay in a tomb — Norman Kember, Harmeet Sooden and me. Tom Fox too, for 104 days, until he was murdered in the early morning hours of March 9.Our tomb was a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. room. How I came to hate every single detail of it: the paint-peeling walls; the dim light filtered through stained bedsheet “curtains”; the pebble-speckle pattern of the floor tiles; the never-ending hours and days of sitting, sleeping, three-times-a-day eating, handcuffed and chained except when let free to go to the bathroom…
I was a prisoner of my own moral cowardice. “Dear God,” I prayed, “Let this bitter cup pass me by. Let our freedom be restored with the least amount of suffering possible.”
Days piled into weeks, and weeks piled into months.
On March 23, at about 7:30 in the morning, our tombstone was rolled way: not by angels garbed in heavenly robes, but by a unit of British Special Forces in full battle gear. There were the sounds of boots on concrete, the door being smashed open, gunfire, voices in English shouting, “Get down! Stay away from the door!” Then a roomful of commotion, soldiers telling us “You’re free, it’s okay, it’s over.”
And hands, shaking with excitement, cutting us free with a bolt-cutter.They led us past the smashed-glass threshold of our tomb and out. Out into blue! Beautiful all sky blue! Fresh flowing air and a palm tree and good morning sunlight! They led us through a smiling gauntlet of soldiers and, with a big step up and a big hatch down, we were entombed again (in the APC taking them to freedom)…
I am learning many things from my captivity, and have a universe of things to be grateful for. Among them is a new and deep appreciation for the women and men who wear the uniform of military service. I likely would not be writing this today if it were not for them. Thus, I am confronted with a great paradox. I, the Christian pacifist peacemaker, am alive, am free because of the very institutions I believe are contrary to Christian teaching.
When he resolves this paradox, he’ll be possess the foundations of wisdom.
UPDATE April 22 – fixed broken link