World View: Orthodox Christians Celebrate the Holy Fire Ceremony at Easter

This morning's key headlines from

  • Orthodox Christians celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony at Easter
  • Ukraine calls an Easter Truce
  • Japan to set up an army radar base near China

Orthodox Christians celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony at Easter

The Holy Fire ceremony is possibly the most impressive celebration in all of Christianity, and is performed each year for Orthodox Easter, which occurs this year on April 20. (This is one of the rare years where the Orthodox and Catholic Easters coincide.)

On Saturday morning, Orthodox clergymen break the seal of the door to Christ's tomb in Jerusalem and descend into the chamber. After a while, they emerge with lit candles. Believers say that the "Holy Fire" appears spontaneously from the tomb on the day before Easter to show Jesus has not forgotten his followers.

The fire is passed from candle to candle, and is flown to Athens and other cities, so that the Holy Fire can be shared by thousands of worshippers. In Athens, the ceremony begins at 11 pm on Saturday, when practically the entire country is in church. At midnight, the lights are turned off, and everyone's candle is lit with the Holy Fire from the priest's candle, as the priest says, "Christ has risen from the dead and in so doing has trampled on death and to those in the tombs he has given life." Then people head home with their lit candles, and the entire city is lit by the candles with the Holy Fire. The ceremony dates back to the fourth century, and possibly as early as the first century. and Greece Travel

Ukraine calls an Easter Truce

Ukraine's government in Kiev has announced an Easter truce in it "anti-terrorist operation" against the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. According to Thursday's agreement between Russia, Ukraine and the West, such operations may be illegal anyway.

The pro-Russian separatists continue to refuse to leave the buildings they occupy or remove the blockades they set up, as called for in Thursday's agreement.

However, the separatists are said to be disappointed that a new poll indicates that 57.2% of the people in Donetsk, the center of the east Ukraine activists, say that Kiev has not violated their rights, and 66.3% say they are against a Russian military intervention. BBC and AFP

Japan to set up an army radar base near China

In a move that will surely infuriate the Chinese, Japan on Saturday broke ground for a new radar station and army base on Yonaguni island, which is Japan's westernmost inhabited island, and is closer to Taiwan and China than it is to mainland Japan. It has a population of 1,500, down from about 15,000 at the end of World War II.

According to Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera:

"This is the first deployment since the US returned Okinawa (1972) and calls for us to be more on guard are growing. I want to build an operation able to properly defend islands that are part of Japan's territory."

Building the base will extend Japanese monitoring to the Chinese mainland and allow it to track Chinese ships and aircraft circling the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Opinion among residents of Yonaguni island is split, with opponents fearing that the base will one day bring a military attack, and proponents hoping that the radar base will bring young soldiers and new money, and will breathe life into the wilting economy. Japan Times and Reuters and The Diplomat

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