Dubai: Easter is a time of hope and renewal. Coming at the end of the period of Lent, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and look forward to the coming days with renewed strength. More so this year as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. During the past few weeks, Christians in the UAE offered prayers for encouragement and healing.
As attendance in churches continues to be restricted due to COVID-19 protocols, most services for Easter in the country will be held online.
Here is a look at what Easter means to Christians in the UAE and how they will spend the day.
Rev. Siju C. Philip, Vicar, Mar Thoma Church, Dubai
We look forward to Easter with renewed hope this year. During the 50 days of Lent, the faithful prayed that God would send healing on the land. And we firmly believe that God will heal. It is this power of prayer that has strengthened us and allowed us to overcome the difficult situation caused by the pandemic over the past year.
The basis of the Christian faith is the empty tomb — the message that Jesus is risen. Although Easter is recorded once a year in the calendar, in essence the faithful come together every Sunday all over the world to celebrate Easter. Death is conquered by the resurrection of Jesus and believers are no more slaves of death. So we look forward with hope to the risen Christ.
We are thankful to the Dubai government for encouraging us from the beginning. The government shared our concern over keeping the church closed and encouraged us to start worship online. We thank the government for their constant support to the Christian community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With churches closed, living rooms turned into altars where families could gather around and worship God as messages and services were beamed straight into their homes.
Rev. Father Binish Babu, Vicar, St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Dubai
Hope lives in the human heart. When we celebrate Easter, we also celebrate optimism. We are living in a tumultuous period of mankind. Nearly 3 million people have died due to COVID-19. Thousands of breadwinners and pillars of the family have been swept away by the pandemic. We are still grappling with the virus. If there is no hope of life beyond death, our faith becomes nothing. We tend to extinguish ourselves in the realm of hopelessness.
The resurrection of Jesus changed the whole dimension of human life. We are sure that the temporary setback of darkness will go away. So, Easter, which brings life, hope and expectation for a brighter future, gives us the courage to fight the challenging circumstances in our life.
Pintu Jacob Kurian, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Dubai
This is the second Easter when I will not be able to attend the worship service in church. However, I will spend time with my family in prayer, thanking God for all the blessings around me in this wonderful country.
I have a lot to thank God for. My encounter with COVID-19 was not a curse, but a blessing. It was an experience that shook my inner self, revealed my vulnerability and my helplessness with a close encounter with death. In the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic started, it was a very exciting time for me — the lockdown, being at home, spending time with family, trying my culinary skills and relaxing while enjoying work.
But when I was tested positive for the coronavirus and admitted to hospital, the reality of anguish and suffering in isolation suddenly hit me. I was on a ventilator, cut off from my family and friends, fighting for my life.
But I am grateful to the Almighty to be in the UAE and get the best treatment by a team of dedicated doctors, nurses and paramedical staff. Rashid Hospital, where I spent 10 days, had become a heaven for me. All who took care of me were God’s angels. I am indebted to the management and the staff of Rashid Hospital for the good and timely treatment they rendered to me. So, this Easter is definitely special for me.
Easter falls on a different date each year. It typically falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox — usually between March 22 and April 25.
Easter concludes a series of events that begin with Lent — a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and sacrifice (50 days in some Orthodox churches) — and ends with Holy Week, which includes Maundy Thursday (the celebration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his 12 Apostles), Good Friday (on which Jesus’ crucifixion is observed) and Easter Sunday.
Mariamma Thomas Dani, St Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Sharjah
Easter will be a different experience for me this year. I will be attending online Easter service and then meeting up with friends and family over Zoom. Video conferencing apps like Zoom have been a blessing in times when we cannot meet face-to-face. In any situation the message of Easter — eternal hope in the risen Christ — remains.
The past year has not been easy, but the Christian community took Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself” to heart. Fervent prayers, frequent calls to check on the health of others, and lending a helping hand to those in need were emphasised in the past year.
Matilyn Bagunu, Choir Director, St. Mary’s Filipino Community Choir, Dubai
Easter this year will be celebrated with a small circle of friends as we still cannot meet as a large gathering. We will attend the High Mass at 6:30am and have lunch together in a restaurant. Later in the day, we will also video chat with friends through Zoom, where we will show our different celebrations. For more than two decades before the pandemic, our chorale’s slot for the Easter High Mass has been at 6:00pm. This is normally followed by dining out with the choir along with immediate family and friends. There are different singing groups taking part the whole day for each Mass service which starts at 5:30am and ends at 7:30pm.
Last year we were able to pool together our resources and give to those in need. We have our regular online rosary (every Friday) not only to strengthen our faith but also to offer prayer petitions for those badly affected by this pandemic.
Joy Sawaya, St. Michael’s Church, Sharjah
Every year we go to church on Good Friday. And then on Sunday, after going to church we meet up and go out for lunch to celebrate the end of the fast. Usually when people fast, they give up something they love. It’s different this year because we won’t be going to church. It also doesn’t help that right now the whole family is in different countries, and because travel isn’t easy, we won’t be seeing each other this year. I will just spend it with my mom.