Monday, 7 November 2011

Suffering and Natural Disasters

The world has witnessed nature’s fury in the past month.  First the Cyclone in Burma and before we know the extent of that tragedy there is the dreadful earthquake in china.  The news programmes on television have had graphic coverage of both events. 
One incident that will haunt me the rest of my life showed a young man trapped under tons of rubble, pinned there while rescue workers fought to save him.  As time ran out they got a telephone to him and he was able to speak to his wife.  He knew his chances were slim of survival.  He spoke to his wife of the love they shared.

The  newsreader finished the piece by telling us that he did not make it.  The young man had died.
I see these tragedies and I ask myself why? 
As a person who believes deeply in a loving God I am forced to ask myself, how can a God of love allow these things to happen?
And in the midst of the pain, anger, sorrow and distress we feel, there are no adequate logical answers that make any sense at these moments.   We respond from our feelings, our emotions are raw.  Perhaps though, it is from that level that we can being to make some sense of it. 
The world is divided.  Look at a map.  Red bits mark the Commonwealth Countries.  Europe a whole mess of different coloured patches marking national borders.  Africa divided, segregated, one country at war with another.  People mistrusting their neighbours.
We use labels, us and them, terrorists, allies, communist, democratic, totalitarian; we grow fearful of anyone who is different to us.  Hatred grows and the world becomes even more hostile and divided.

A month ago China was them.  A totalitarian regime.  A country of Communists, who only wanted to host the Olympics as a propaganda tool.
Then I saw a young Chinese man trapped.  It no longer mattered what political party he may have supported.  The differences became unimportant.  He became a human being and my heart went out to him and his wife.  I wanted him to be rescued and wanted them to have a future together.
The earthquake with the sorrow and pain that other human beings were going through some how pulled down the boundaries and barriers that divide and separate people.  We were no longer different.  We all became human beings.  China’s President was shown walking with his people.  Sitting with them, holding children, offering comfort.  In his responses to the tragedy I saw him as another person doing the very best he could to comfort his grieving nation and I wished him well and prayed for him.

There are no satisfactory answers to catastrophes of the proportion of the Cyclone and earthquake but maybe if they force us to look at others as fellow human beings and brings people of different nations a little closer together some good may come out of them.  Maybe that is why God permits them to happen.  They force us to recognize our shared humanity and our limitations.

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