Our blog this week is written by Carlos Chuquihuara SJ, a Jesuit scholastic living in the Jesuit Laudato Si’ Community in Clapham, SW4. He is part of the Jesuit Young Adult Ministries Team.
The Jesuit community in Clapham are volunteer hosts in the JRS ‘At Home’ scheme. Through this scheme they regularly welcome destitute refugee friends in need of accommodation in to their living space, on a short term basis.
During Eastertide, the image of the God of Surprises frequently comes to my mind. I guess I like the notion of a God that takes us by surprise and bewilders us with hope when we least expect it. In this regard, receiving Abraham* and Hasan* at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown has had an Easter note of surprise: an unexpected blessing during a strenuous time in our world.
Even though Abraham and Hasan are both Ethiopians, they are quite different. They come from different parts of the country, they practice different faiths and have different mother-tongues. Having said that, they both speak Amharic, the common Ethiopian lingua franca, and, in this regard, it’s very enjoyable hearing how their tone of voice heightens and enlivens when they speak this semitic langue between themselves.
Since their arrival, Abraham and Hasan, have shared their faith and culture with us. For instance, Abraham is an Orthodox Christian who celebrated Easter Day a week after the rest of us, Catholic Christians, living in the house. While we were celebrating Easter Day, Abraham was still in Lenten mode. We were joyful nevertheless when both he and Hasan, our muslim guest, joined us for our celebratory Easter Day lunch. A week later, we enjoyed another Easter lunch, Ethiopian style, cooked by Abraham, when we celebrated the Orthodox Christian Easter Day. The results of Abraham’s generosity were delicious: a traditional Ethiopian banquet consisting of Beyainatu (traditional stews) and Injera (savoury pancakes).
It is very strange to talk about ‘two Easters’ in our modern-day context. After all, it was a Jesuit mathematician, Christopher Clavius SJ, who designed and implemented the Gregorian Calendar. Unfortunately, in it’s implementation we ended up with separate Easter dates for the Western and Eastern Churches respectively. Likewise, our societies are often tempted to emphasise our differences for the sake of preserving a false sense of identity. It in this tension of fear and uncertainty that the Easter message calls us to unity. Despite our cultural differences, there is something very familiar about the Easter joy that transcends calendars and cultures, and languages.
Abraham’s joyful singing of Easter hymns in Amharic and his kindness in preparing an Easter meal made me realise that these celebrations were not two. It is the one Easter celebrated according to two different time schedules. Most importantly, through Abraham and Hasan, I have learnt that God invites us to be a sign of unity in diversity. This is the hope that Easter brings: that despite immigration status, language barriers and cultural differences, we all desire the same: a better and more just world for everyone.
*Real names have been changed to protect identities
If you have been moved by Carlos’s experience of hosting during Easter, you can find out more about our ‘At Home’ scheme here.
While we are currently unable to take on new volunteer hosts due to COVID-19 self-distancing measures, we hope to do so soon.
For more information on how you can volunteer in future, please email JRS Communities of Hospitality Coordinator Naomi: firstname.lastname@example.org