The Powers of Death and Life, Lies and Truth

KurdistanFrom Weldon Nisly, retired pastor and half-time Christian Peacemaker Teams member serving five months per year in Iraqi Kurdistan (photo right) serving. This is an excerpt from his Holy Week update on the ground in Kurdistan. 

On this Holy Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we live liturgically between the powers of death and the powers of life. All of us choose daily whether we worship death or life and are committed to lies or truth.

Recently CPT encountered someone who knows the cost of choosing life and truth confronting militarized political powers. Independent Kurdish journalist Mohammed (name changed to protect identity) told the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team of his refusal to promise to stop seeking and speaking truth about the powers of death. “I am a journalist,” Mohammed simply and firmly declared to us. His commitment was not a theoretical stance. He had recently been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for more than 40 days and his family was threatened by the powers of death who accused him of inciting opposition to the ruling political party leader.

The struggle between powers of life and death, truth and lies is not unique to Iraqi Kurdistan or journalism in this part of the world. Corporate control and political condemnation of journalism in the United States is a tragic manifestation of our imperial power’s commitment to death and lies. Repeated cries of “fake news” and dependence on “alternative facts” subverts the essential role of journalism for democracy and human rights.

As we await Jesus’ resurrection on this Holy Saturday, remember “resurrection is against the law.” As Bill Wylie Kellerman explains in Seasons of Faith and Conscience, the sealed tomb was not to seal in the stench of body decay. It was the imperial power’s official seal of authority with presumed control over life and truth.  Breaking the seal and rolling away the stone is a criminal act against the state. “Caesar, in Pilate….has set his seal of approval on Jesus’ death….When the seal is broken in the resurrection, it stands among the signs that the powers of death have been broken. The dominion of political imperial authority has been cut to the heart.”

And so, it is this Holy Saturday, in the Year of Our Lord, 2019, as we live liturgically from Good Friday into Easter Sunday of Jesus’ resurrection. Resurrection is not a single long past happening. Rising to new life today happens in us or it is without meaning in the Risen Christ two millennia ago.

This Holy Week gives living liturgical memory for the struggle between the powers of death and life, crucifixion and resurrection, lies and truth.

Here in Iraqi Kurdistan, signs of the resurrection and revelation, life and truth nonviolently confronting lies and overcoming death arise in surprising people and places.

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