Leading Article: Easter message

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IT IS CUSTOMARY on Easter Sunday for serious newspapers to devote their main leader to uplifting thoughts, though without committing themselves to anything as scandalous as an identifiable belief. This is perhaps as it should be in a secular society. Besides, very few people now believe in the Resurrection; even highly placed Christians doubt it. For most people Easter is Christmas without the Dickensian sentimentality and liver- rotting excess. Children get presents; parents a long weekend. This year, however, things are different. Editorial pieties have had to yield to the demands of war. The bombing won't stop for Easter, and it is unrealistic of Christian leaders to expect it to. Yet, to believers and unbelievers alike, Easter has a significance for all ages. It defines Christianity and Christian civilisation, with all its glory and all its shame. Without Christianity there would be no Just War theory (and therefore no Geneva Conventions); and none of the murderous hatreds that infect the Balkans and have helped to make life hell for so many Albanians.

Today millions of Western Christians celebrate Easter; in a week's time millions of Orthodox Christians follow suit. In London and Belgrade, meanwhile, the propagandists continue to demonise the enemy. This, then, is our Easter message: God cannot be expected to take sides in this war. He hears the prayers in Belgrade just as he hears those in London. In that sense, God is neutral. It is a troubling thought for the born-again jingoists of New Labour, but it is one Mr Blair might profitably consider as he sinks wearily to his knees this morning.