This weekend, across the world, 2.2billion Christians will be celebrating Easter. They'll be remembering the death of Christ on a Roman cross in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago and the burial tomb that lay empty two days later. Christ's redemption of the world is the central message of Christianity and it was this historic event that catalysed the growth of the Christian faith, which is now shared by nearly one third of the world's population. But fast forward several centuries and we find ourselves in a world that is just as full of injustice, greed, selfishness and inequality as the one Jesus encountered.
Jesus' death on a cross, on what is now known as Good Friday, was his final act of sacrificial love; the pouring out of himself so that others could live in freedom. The term 'redeemer', in the Old Testament, means literally the one who rescues, who buys back. It was generally applied to those Israelites who paid a sum of money to purchase something that was lost, occasionally their own relatives, who were about to become slaves due to a debt they owed. The main characteristics of a redeemer were that they were willing and able to pay. By recovering his 'enslaved' relatives, the redeemer then freed them, enabling them to restart their lives.
At Easter, it is Christ's model of redemption - sacrificial love to relieve the suffering of others - which Christians seek to reflect on and emulate. However, Pope Francis has coined the term 'globalisation of indifference' to describe what he sees as an epidemic of apathy, where people have become used to the suffering of others.
The impact of this willingness to accept the suffering of others can be seen in our world today; a world where one in eight people go to bed hungry every night despite there being enough food for everyone and where millions of children don't reach their fifth birthday simply because they're born in a low-income country. Where the wealthy burn polluting fossil fuels to sustain a lifestyle that negatively impacts the poor. Where individualism triumphs over sacrificial love.
And yet, there is hope. Thankfully we are witnessing a growing movement of passionate people of all faiths and none, for whom protecting the vulnerable is a key priority. To take one example, Catholics have been supporting CAFOD's One Climate, One World campaign and raising awareness of the impact that climate change is having on the poorest communities overseas. In their thousands people have been marching, signing petitions and making lifestyle changes all in order to reduce the devastating effect climate change is having. And what's more, they are beginning to be heard. In February, all three party leaders - Cameron, Clegg and Miliband - signed an unprecedented agreement across party lines to tackle climate change. In no small part due to the pressure that CAFOD campaigners - along with campaigners from other faith-based and secular organisations - have put on them.
But further action is required if we're to stop climate change pushing even more people into poverty. This year is shaping up to be an incredibly important year for the future of our world. We've got UN talks at the end of 2015 which will decide the future of our development goals and the direction of international climate change action, not to mention an election at home. Within this context, Pope Francis will be publishing his much-anticipated papal encyclical on human ecology; a letter sent to all Catholic churches worldwide addressing human development and its relationship with current environmental issues. These events have the potential to improve the lives of millions of the most vulnerable people across our world.
This Easter Christians have an opportunity to reflect on the message of Christ's redemption and commit to putting their faith into action by tackling the injustices that keep many millions of people from a life lived in all its fullness. In the past, people of faith have been seminal in bringing about social change. They played a crucial role in ending the transatlantic slave trade, they were at the forefront of the civil rights movement and figures like Archbishop Oscar Romero died standing up for the rights of poor communities in El Salvador. Inspired by the Easter message of redemption, the world's 2.2billion Christians have the potential to help bring about a more just, sustainable and prosperous world for all, not just for a few.
Sophie Dodgeon is Head of Campaigns at Catholic aid agency CAFOD.Suggest a correction