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South African bishop says 45 who died on Easter eve ‘are alive with the Risen Lord’

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South African bishop says 45 who died on Easter eve ‘are alive with the Risen Lord’

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Easter was a time of mourning for several families in Botswana, when 45 worshippers died.

The members of the Zion Christian Church from Botswana were headed for their headquarters on March 28 in Moria Polokwane when their bus plunged off a bridge and caught fire.

Only an eight-year old child surviving the accident.

“It is very sad,” said Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka of the Diocese of Umtata.

“If this was due to a natural unavoidable accident, there is nothing that can be done about it, but if it is due to negligence about the physical and mechanical state of the bus, the tiredness of the driver or any other negligence, those responsible must be held responsible,” the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) told Crux.

“One human life lost is one too many, to say nothing about 45,” the bishop added.

“We feel the pain of the relatives who have lost their loved ones and with tragedy we assure that we are with them in spirit. We pray that they will be consoled by the knowledge that they died on their way to celebrate the Lord of life who conquered death, and so even as they have died, they are alive with the Risen Lord,” he said.

“May this thought – as St Paul exhorts us 1 Thess. 4:13-18 – be a source of consolation.”

The bishop then talked about the significance of the Easter the deceased faithful were going to celebrate, describing it as “a meaningful event of our faith because in the darkness that characterizes our personal lives and the world, it communicates that God is not abandoning us and the world in the fate and consequences of darkness.”

In his Easter message, the South African prelate explained what he means by “the darkness” that characterizes the world today.

Sipuka spoke about the complex relationships that today exist in family circles, and of “incurable diseases, tragedies that befall us, emotional effects of neglect and abuse, deep-seated anger, guilt feelings, depression, betrayal, rejection, disappointment, unfulfilled dreams, emotional imbalance, addictions, aging, and the prospect of death.”

“All sorts of darkness seem to prevail in our time, the darkness of greed and corruption compounded by lack of leadership to deal with it, the darkness of addiction that is holding our children and youth in ransom and causing much pain in families, the darkness of crime that makes us feel unsafe in a country that is supposed to be free, the darkness of unemployment that eats away the dignity and confidence of our young people,” the bishop said.

But the risen Lord, Sipuka said, offers a glimmer of hope.

“ The Risen Christ is urging us on that though the world is dominated by attitudes and dispositions of selfishness and injustice that lead to many people being subjected to abject poverty, loss of human dignity and resulting in oppression of others and wars in which so many innocents are killed, with Him alive, this is not the end. With the Risen Christ we celebrate the certainty that the values enunciated in the beatitudes and the supremacy of love will prevail. The devil who rejoices at the destruction of people through sinful life that makes them live below the standard of their dignity will not prevail and that the oppression and abuse of the poor will come to an end and new heaven and a new earth will come to fulfillment,” he told Crux.

The bishop spoke about the candle that is lit at Easter, noting that it symbolizes that the risen Christ dispels the darkness.

“With the conviction of the risen Christ among us, believers are invited to roll up their sleeves and deal with darkness instead of wallowing in despair.”

Sipuka, drawing from the Book of Genesis, reflected on the story of creation. He reminded Christians that in the beginning, chaos reigned, and God’s Spirit breathed order and purpose into existence. However, this initial order was fleeting, disrupted by sin.

Easter’s profound message, according to Sipuka, lies in the resurrection of Christ—a divine act that restores order. Although the exact details remain mysterious, “the resurrection of Christ” means that “God is creating the world and its order anew.”

The about 63-year old bishop said that the Risen Christ “guides and empowers us in dealing with [challenges of life] and gives us the strength and peace to live with those conditions we cannot change.”

“The joy of believers about Easter is the knowledge that while difficult situations of their life continue to attain, they can be happy and peaceful because their Risen Lord is journeying with them, loving them, supporting them and assuring them that they are not alone because He has Risen,” Sipuka said.

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