Today, April 16, 2017, is Easter, arguably the most important event in the church calendar. Easter this year also happens to fall on the third anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Incident. The YAV’s were fortunate enough to be invited to attend an event of remembrance of the senseless tragedy that also had a church service tied into it today. Needless to say, grief was a major part of the day.
It was incredibly strange to go from a morning of celebrating the resurrection into an afternoon of mourning other innocent lives lost. Jesus’s story at least gets to finish on a high note of sorts after his death with his resurrection. The story of the Sewol Ferry Incident does not have such a reassuring ending.
Argue with me if you will, but Christ’s death makes sense on some level. Certainly, Jesus was blameless and sinless and perfection in human form, making him an innocent victim for the sins of mankind, but he was still given a choice to accept his fate, not to mention that his death had been foreseen for centuries. Christ’s death also is more bearable in that his suffering and pain is at least rewarded through the resurrection and the salvation of all people (to quote the sermon this morning: “without suffering, there is no victory; without suffering, there is no resurrection”). Christ did what he was made to do and in the end, that makes sense.
The Sewol Ferry Incident and the events that have occurred in the years following do not make sense no matter how you look at it. Even though three years have passed since the unimaginable event, almost no answers have been figured out. In fact, there are still nine people whose bodies or whereabouts in any shape or form are still unknown. Worse yet, deposed president Park Geun Hye actively worked to keep the events in the dark. Within a week of Park’s impeachment, the Sewol Ferry was finally brought again to the surface. This should have happened years ago, if not to find justice then to at least provide peace to the families of the victims.
Walking around today and bearing witness to people’s grief was unbelievable. The pain was practically palpable. I watched as people greeted each other and would break into tears in each other’s arms. Three years might have passed but the pain felt among these families is still heavy and present. One part of the remembrance was to walk through a massive structure of a tent and to place a white flower before the massive wall of hundreds of faces gazing back. People of different ages died on the ferry, but a large majority of the victims were high school students. We all looked at the assembled gifts and drawings in dedication to lost children, classmates, and friends. To feel this pain and loss, only empathically, was unbearable. I cannot even imagine what it feels like to still be walking around with questions and overwhelming grief.
At the Christian service we attended, sadness was still heavily present and felt. Members of the victims’ families led prayers or gave performances. The church was able to gather together universally despite denominations to join in a sermon, offering, and even Communion as a part of the service. It was incredible to witness people with possibly nothing in common except belief in Christ join together in solidarity and mourning and engage in celebration of God’s goodness despite the pain. Despite the fear and the hurt, there was still serenity and hope. Despite the anger and confusion, there was still belief and strength.
Although this was not a typical Easter Sunday for me, it is infinitely one of the most important ones of my life. As we join together across denominations this Easter and every Easter to come, I pray that we can remember the light that overcomes the darkness, the love that overcomes sin, and the truth that overcomes all understandings.
In the midst of everything that happened today, words flowed into my mind and wouldn’t leave or stop until they were written out and formed this poem. Enjoy and remember to not lost hope in the unimaginable.
Grief is limitless
When lives lost are innocent
When the question is why
Why did these children die
When there is no answer
When the government gives no chance for
Victims’ families to find peace
For the injustices to cease
When 9 people still are missing
After three years in an abyss, this
Vessel is still lost
Recovered only just
Now that corruption has been pushed aside
Although for years these people have cried
And cry they still will
On and on until
Light shines down on the lost
Until someone has paid the cost
Once the truth is out and free
Perhaps the Sewol Ferry
Will no longer be cause
To only think of loss
But to think instead of strength
Of how what people can do together is great
Of a memory that will never fade
Of debts that shall be repaid
Of a hope that will never die
Of the lost souls which will fly
Never shall these wrongs be right
And we all shall continue to fight
And finally, at last, darkness will be overcome by light