There’s a lot of talk about victims at the moment …
We have watched with horror the escalating crisis following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury on two targeted victims and others who found themselves caught up in the story.
Then there are the victims of modern slavery around the world and in the UK.
As a diocese we have recently signed up to be a ‘Clewer Diocese’* to join in the campaign against human trafficking.
Meanwhile the recent hearings of IICSA (the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) have revealed the very unprofessional way some parts of the Church of England have treated victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
It is a shocking and shameful story from which we have much to learn, so that in the future we follow good practice and safeguard children and vulnerable adults better, making church a place of safety.
At a completely different level, all of us are victims of one sort or another, of circumstances, of culture, of relationships, of health, of our genes, of our social background; those things which we can do little or nothing about and which control much of our thinking and being.
Our lives contain moments that tell us we are often subject to external forces beyond our control.
At this Easter time, Christians celebrate that God has not only entered this mixed up world, but allowed Himself to become a victim, be arrested, tried, tortured and then crucified.
That looked like a massive defeat, but in fact His suffering on the cross became a victory. The death of a righteous man was counted as a death for the unrighteous, you and me, that we might be forgiven and given eternal life.
That victory was confirmed by the resurrection; Jesus’ conquest over death. So the victim became the conqueror, as expressed in the verse of that popular hymn, ‘Christ triumphant, ever reigning’:
Suffering servant, scorned, ill-treated
Death is through the cross defeated
That’s why Christians celebrate at Easter, because it declares that Jesus Christ has authority over all forms of evil, oppression and abuse and will have the final word.
Victims can find in Him a hope for the future, a peace that the world cannot give and an energetic resolve to root out all forms of abuse and wickedness.
And it is in that confidence that my Easter prayer and greeting is that we may respond to Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, by turning to Him and finding Him and making Him to be our living Saviour and Lord. A joyful Easter to you all!
Rt Rev. Julian Henderson
Bishop of Blackburn