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A Historical Look into the Origins of Easter

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It is that time of year again — an overabundance of hot cross buns on campus! In addition to the hot cross buns, super market aisles are stocked with Easter eggs to power our brains with glucose whilst we ‘attempt’ to catch up on assignments and missed lectures during the mid-semester break. As we consume Easter eggs and hot cross buns, have we considered whether there is a deeper historical meaning to this holiday? Have you ever considered what the cross on the hot cross bun represents? Or wondered some people call week 7 “J Week”?

Well the “J” in “J week” stands for Jesus. During week 7, Christians across Monash University and other Australian universities use the opportunity of giving out hot cross buns to share what they believe to be the true meaning of Easter. For Christians, Jesus, not the Easter bunny or chocolate, is the focus of the week. They believe that Jesus who came to earth to reveal who God is, teaching people how to love one another and most importantly, dying for humanity on a cross so that we can be in relationship with a living God. Yet most importantly, Jesus comes back to life three days later and this is the reason Christians celebrate Easter. This Christian basis for the Easter holiday is talked about less frequently with the commercialisation of Easter as well a societal shift away from the Judeo-Christian foundation of Australia. Over the years, many historians have agreed on several points which authenticate this historical perspective of Easter.  To pique your interest, let’s revisit the word ‘Jesus’ to unpack the four main points substantiating Jesus’s resurrection.

Jesus was a historical man who walked the earth and crucified to death

Jesus is a man who was alive on this earth, just like you and me. A couple of facts pertaining to his existence are as follows:

  • Hundreds of references to Jesus Christ in New Testament manuscripts, with some creeds dating within three years of his death, which can be considered very reliable ancient manuscripts
  • Roman historian, Tacitus, documented that a man named Chrestus (Christ) lived during the first century

He also died a horrific death by crucifixion. It is important to note that he had to be completely dead for him to come back to life. Some have speculated that maybe Jesus did not completely die and therefore, never “rose from the dead”. Yet these facts question this theory:

  • The American Medical Association describes death on the cross by crucifixion as certain death by suffocation due to the treacherous way it was conducted
  • Roman soldiers were professional executioners who were documented to thrust a spear through Jesus’ side into his lungs and heart to ascertain his death

Empty tomb

Jesus’ tomb was empty- another indicator that he was no longer dead. The authorities of the day could not find his body to silence the people proclaiming he had come back to life. Some other evidence are as follows:

  • Multiple, Independent and early eyewitnesses- Three women reported seeing the empty tomb not long after Jesus’s burial. Roman guards also ascertained the empty tomb to authenticate what the women saw
  • The empty tomb was recorded independently across all ancient manuscripts of the four Gospels of the Bible

Seen by hundreds post mortem

There were independently documented post mortem appearances of Jesus to his followers as well as hundreds who didn’t follow him. Some of these documented appearances included appearing to his brother James and a religious leader named Paul, who was an avid persecutor of the Christian church.

Unparalleled explosion of the Christian church

After the documented resurrection, there was an explosion of early Christianity. The faith exploded out of first century Israel and spread rapidly to Europe, Africa and Asia. Why were the early Christians so firm in their beliefs? If their leader was dead, or if his death was faked, why would his followers willing to go to their deaths for the sake of the message of his resurrection? The sighting of their resurrected Christ would be an event of tremendous magnitude to turn scared and sceptical followers, with no prior concept of resurrection, into courageous proclaimers of a message they were willing to die for.

Significant

All the four points mentioned provide historical evidence towards Jesus’ death and resurrection. For Christians, Jesus holds personal significance as they see him as God, someone that gives them purpose and hope. In Western Society, His resurrection and teachings have had a significant impact our morals and fundamental structure of society. His life and teachings have impacted our moral beliefs towards the sanctity of life, equality, compassion, humility and many more. Today, Christian influences can still be observed in some aspects of the legal system, business, education, the arts and language. As the English Historian H.G. Wells once said: “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very centre of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Regardless of your religious beliefs (or none), I hope that some of the historical evidence surrounding the Christian basis of Easter has intrigued you to research this more. If the historical facts of Jesus checks out, it is worth considering. Have a happy Easter!

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Student

Multilingual Melburnians

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In late August of 2015, Laura Blackmore hit upon an idea that was to be later picked up by Disney and be applauded across Melbourne. The Monash student was studying her Masters in translation while living at Berwick campus when she had a vision of starting a blog dedicated to showcasing what she most loved about Melbourne – it’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Laura, the Language and Cultural Ambassador for Disney Australia and New Zealand’s ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign, recounts the beginnings of her Facebook page, Multilinguals Of Melbourne (affectionately nicknamed MoM).

“I had the idea and then thought, ‘how can I do this?’. I went to tell my roommates and they were sleeping so I had to go to bed thinking about every detail – I don’t think I slept at all that night!”

Multilinguals of Melbourne promotes language and cultural diversity by sharing the stories of everyday people who learn, speak and breathe multiple languages. The stories and accompanying photos Laura publishes to her wildly successful Instagram, Facebook and blog have been likened to those of Humans of New York founder’s Brandon Stanton. And for good reason.

Laura’s approach to sharing the experiences of multilinguals is firmly focused on the authentic, often unmentioned realities of living in a multicultural city through the lens of individuals who speak, live and breathe multiple languages. At the time of print, Multilinguals of Melbourne has represented over 20 nationalities and 37 languages, with Laura’s posts reaching a peak of 12, 000 view shortly after its recent one year anniversary.

MoM’s stories are equally challenging, touching and eye-opening. When asked if she ever prompts interviewees or knows what she’ll ask someone about, Laura admits she never goes into a meeting with any angle. “It’s always varied, I can never pick how a conversation will go… So I never have questions prepared. I’d rather let someone share openly and MoM be a space for that.”

MoM’s first subjects were Laura’s multilingual roommates (who shared 10 languages between them) and later expanded to include numerous members of Monash language clubs, ACYA, Monash Radio and Mango Languages. Laura herself has been asked to speak at yLead’s Social Impact conference and was recently featured in Disney’s ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign as one of three Australian women who are inspirations to their community. “What I love about this project is how it creates a community. People I’ve interviewed are my friends or have become my friends through sharing their stories.”

The beauty in the Multilinguals Of Melbourne initiative it’s open-hearted inclusiveness. Laura’s own disillusionment with the academic pressure and competition in learning languages at university strengths her resolve to never ask the individuals she interviews to need to meet a standard of fluency to fit the multilingual criteria. Anyone who speaks, studies or learns more than one language, regardless of if they’ve been speaking it for one day or ten years, can be interviewed. “My own language-learning journey was strained but that’s why I’m so passionate now.”

What officially constitutes a language or culture is often defined by politics. In allowing interviewees to speak out about their culture, MoM infuses a realism and understanding that has made Melbournians of all backgrounds sit back and take note. So what’s next? According to Laura the next step for MoM is a print magazine but in the meantime, Multilinguals Of Melbourne will continue to grow as Laura’s success attracts more individuals hoping to share their experiences. While you’d be forgiven for believing Australia only has one official language, Laura Blackmore’s, Multilinguals of Melbourne is setting the record straight and righting misconceptions of Melbourne as a city with only one language and culture, one interview at a time.

If you speak or are learning more than one language and would like to share your story, you can contact Laura Blackmore via the Multilinguals of Melbourne Facebook page at http://facebook.com/multilingualsofmelbourne

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Student

Rising out of Chaos

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Chaos. In the week leading up to a Lot’s Wife printing deadline it may seem like the paper’s middle name.

Well, it wasn’t that long ago.

Undoubtedly the greatest keeper of Lot’s Wife stories is past Monash student, Pete Steedman. A former federal parliamentary member for Casey and Executive Director of not-for-profit company Ausmusic, Steedman reported for, edited and revolutionised both Lot’s Wife and its predecessor, Chaos, during his time at Monash.

“Monash had this incredible reputation of being radical,” he says. “When you sum it down…the only thing radical was what was coming out of Lot’s Wife!”

The revolutionary nature of Monash student press reflected the environment into which it was born. Monash University was founded in 1958, the only new university at that time to ‘start up from scratch’, not evolving from a pre existing TAFE or college. “That’s what makes [Monash] so unique,” Steedman says. “There was no peer group, no establishment, no ground rules, no laws, just fucking mud everywhere. You didn’t have anybody to lead you into university or explain anything, you created everything on the spot.”

The paper students created was truly their own. During O-Week 1962 a bold tabloid hit the Monash campus. Chaos. A world away from today’s glossy magazine, Chaos was first and foremost a newspaper. Highly political and controversial, Steedman recollects writing articles “attacking the coppers, attacking the university, attacking everybody.” Covering contemporary social issues from police brutality to the existence of God, Chaos was known for doing its research. “Chaos didn’t act as propaganda, it showed all sides of an argument,” Steedman says. Its capacity to generate debate and therefore influence students is what Steedman believes made it dangerous, as people were able to learn from it, trust it and adopt new ideas.

In 1964 the paper was edited by a new team including Emeritus Professor Ross Fitzgerald, now an Australian academic, historian, writer and political commentator. The group “decided they were going to be…revolutionary” and the blank spaces where articles should have appeared in editions of their paper are a testament to this. “Because the printers wouldn’t publish some of their bullshit they left spaces and then published the articles in separate sheets,” Steedman says.

It wouldn’t be the first time that the printers of The Age, who printed Chaos and then Lot’s Wife, acted as a censor on student press. Further restrictions by this conservative printer in 1965 saw the editing team search for another company and discover a small printer in Waverley. This was one of the first printing presses in Victoria to use off set printing, then a modern technique whereby inked images were transferred (or “off set”) from a metal plate to a rubber blanket and pressed onto the printing surface. Always ahead of its game, in 1965 Monash also boasted the first colour student newspaper in Australia.

Steedman was never put off by the university’s attempts to censor him. “I didn’t cop that [censorship],” he says. “I asked the uni what are you going to do about it?” But Steedman’s refusal to keep quiet had consequences reaching further than just university disciplinary action. During later periods of editing at Melbourne University’s Farrago, Steedman received a ‘D-Notice’ stating he had threatened the defence of the country. The article in question, which was pulled off the printing press and denied publication, had been written by a welfare officer in the Northern Territory and discussed the way Aboriginals were being treated in the 1960s. “That article was harmless but I was served a ‘D-Notice’ by the Federal Police,” he says.

As a child of the 60s, it’s no surprise that Chaos, soon to become Lot’s Wife, reported extensively on the Vietnam War and conscription. The 1965 National Forum on Vietnam was held at Monash University and hosted a string of high-profile names, including leading anti-war figure Dr Jim Cairns and External Affairs Minister and later Governor-General, Paul Hasluck. The Forum was covered in detail in Lot’s Wife by co-editors at the time, Phillip Frazer and Peter Moylan, but it wasn’t just students who did the reporting. Lecturers and university staff were often published in Chaos and Lot’s Wife, such as senior politics lecturer Max Teichmann’s contribution to the conscription debate and economic lecturer Ian Ward’s article on Vietnam.

But it wasn’t all politics. “The highlight of the year, which of course upsets people now, was the Miss Monash contest,” Steedman says. While photos of Miss Science, Miss Engineering and Miss Economics would not be accepted now, Steedman insists the some of the most prominent feminists of the day were crowned Miss Monash at some point.

In 1964, Chaos was renamed Lot’s Wife by the now prominent science fiction author and science writer, Damien Broderick. Supposedly a move to tidy up the paper, Steedman states “Damien had this thing about not looking back.” In the Old Testament, Lot and his wife fled the destruction of Sodom with God’s promise to spare them if they left behind their burning town without a backwards glance. Lot’s wife, upon looking back, was turned into a pillar of salt for not obeying God’s orders. While the new title suggested a fresh start, the paper’s content remained as radical as ever. In the first Lot’s Wife edition, a front page report on an inquiry into police brutality in Sydney towards eight university students showed that the paper had no intention of backing down from questioning authority.

According to Steedman, Lot’s Wife gradually became less hard news and more “the youth package”, reviewing everything from music and concerts to fashion. “This is Barrie Humphries when he first started up,” Steedman says, pointing to an article promoting his stage act, Excuse I. “Mrs Everidge had just started,” Steedman notes. “Humphries invented her in the late 50s.”

1966 saw the relationship between Lot’s Wife and Farrago come to share more in common that just their status as university newspapers. As Lot’s Wife editor, Steedman joined forces with the University of Melbourne’s Ian Robinson to create a highly controversial joint Lot’s Wife/Farrago edition. “That really upset [the students],” Steedman says. Pooling resources gave the publication the money to print more articles and develop more content. The front cover set the tone for an anti-Vietnam War issue, with a cartoon in which US president Lyndon B. Johnson confessed to “raping Vietnam” but sought justification in that if he had not, Chairman Mao, portrayed on crutches, would have done so.

While the original tabloids Chaos and Lot’s Wife seem vastly different from today’s glossy publications, they share a similar ethos, allowing all students the chance to write.

“I never censored anybody,” Steedman says of his time as editor. “Everybody got a go.”

Despite evolving and differing political and social issues since those early days, there are certain student concerns which are unlikely to fade. “This was an article attacking parking,” Steedman says with a laugh pointing to the faded, yellowing clipping. It seems there are some things about Monash life that never change…

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