[The Scottish Episcopal Church] In an announcement today, the Most Revd Bruce Cameron, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said, "This year, it is not possible to observe the central celebration of the Christian calendar - Easter - without it being overshadowed by the war in Iraq. The military action now seems, thank God, to be at an end. But its consequences will be with us for a long time.
"The media has brought this war into our homes in a way no other previous conflict has been communicated. We have watched the technological brilliance of modern warfare, and witnessed the aftermath of its destruction in terms of human lives.
"Also, it is only now that we are becoming more fully aware of the hidden suffering of the Iraqi people through years of an evil and tyrannous regime.
"Politicians, religious leaders, soldiers, journalists, speak with words like 'liberation', 'peace-building', 'justice'. But do these words have the same reality to people as their suffering? Do they constitute real hope, or are they passing dreams? This is where there remain imponderables in our present world situation. The removal of a tyrant and his regime does not automatically bring freedom. The cessation of war does not necessarily create peace. The imposition of democracy is not a guarantee of justice.
"John Habgood, former Archbishop of York, preached at a special service in Glasgow at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991. His words still ring true today. He spoke of how 'the perplexities about innocent suffering go back to the roots of all religious traditions - Jewish, Christian, Moslem. In the end, guilty and innocent suffer together - and often the innocent more than the guilty...a sad acknowledgement before God of the appalling suffering which war and its aftermath have actually brought in their train.' But, he says, this is not a cause of despair. 'Jesus, himself the innocent sufferer in a city he knew was doomed, revealed all suffering as encompassed within the suffering of God.'
"In the events of Good Friday we are faced with many facets that are reflected in today's world - human suffering, injustice, powerful but corrupt leaders, deserting friends, soldiers doing their duty. To those first disciples of Jesus, his crucifixion seemed to mock any fragile hopes they had.
"But then there is Easter - not simply, I believe, a story about an empty tomb, nor a denial of the suffering and death of Jesus. It was a discovery of faith that took those first disciples and millions since, beyond the broken fragile hopes of Good Friday, and transformed them into a vision - a practical vision - to which they committed their lives.
"And that vision? Let the words of Fr Harry Williams, author of The True Wilderness, offer an answer: 'Easter is a proclamation about mankind, about the world. All that separates and injures and destroys has been overcome by what unites and heals and creates. Death has been swallowed up in life.'
"Let that be our Easter prayer - above all for the people of Iraq."