December 29, 2004

"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." -Matthew 24:7

The disaster was unprecedented. To say it was unexpected would be an understatement. All across the Indian Ocean, drama unfolded as the dead were uncovered by the minute and the ones left alive by the catastrophe found themselves in dire shortage of basic needs.

I think in times like these, we are often inclined to blame God for the lives lost, and the subsequent suffering of those left mercilessly alive by the disaster. It was such an unfortunate timing for the disaster to occur as well, during the Christmas season where thousands of tourists would be lounging in bays next to the ocean in Phuket, Langkawi and other coastal resorts in India and Sri Lanka. I admit, even I initially questioned the paucity of sense involved in the occurance of this earthquake. I asked God for reasons why he would allow the deaths of tens of thousands of people and to make homeless millions of others. I wanted an answer to the many questions flooding through my mind, and how a God who loved us could bear to allow such suffering amongst his creation. I needed validation from God, and I wanted it now.

The answer wasn't quite what I expected, but it did clear the doubts. I stumbled across a webpage over the Internet which explained possible causes of recent increase in seismic activity which could be attributed to nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, carpet bombings in nearby Iraq and other man-made causes. And I thought, perhaps, unknowingly, unseeingly, what we are doing to Earth is in a way a vicious cycle. I've come up with this theory which is quite plausible if you think about it. Imagine the Earth as a huge giant car with nuts and bolts and gears which are clicked into place. Perhaps somehow the oil which we find deep underneath the oceans and ground help to keep the lava and tectonic plates moving and sliding and generally, keep the plates running like they should. Now what we have done is we have drilled deep and removed this lubricant from within the Earth, choosing instead to replace it with salt water (From what I read, this is what oil companies do with empty oil wells). What happens to a car when you fill it with salt water instead of petrol? I might be wrong, of course. The causes could be varying.

What I'm propagating is that somehow, indirectly, man's sin has resulted in the increase in natural disasters around us. We have created El Nino, global warming, the haze and landslides, so why not unstable plates? A theory which must be considered, given the amount of damage and instability we contribute to the ground on which we live. Perhaps this isn't God sending us a message, it's our own Earth doing so.

But I digress. The main issue here isn't really the 'whys' of how this occured. It's really those millions of homeless people out there suffering due to lack of basic needs like food, water and shelter. These are the same people who are trapped below the poverty line in world demographics. These are the same people who make your Nike shoes in dimly lit factories filled with ghastly stenches and yet, are paid 3 cents an hour. These are the same people who everyday, continue to live in fear and ignorance, devoid of comfort. And yet, these are the people who are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Even so, in the midst of all this seeming hurt and pain, its ironic to see how natural disasters bring about the best in Man. Foreign aid has started to pour in from international sources and former enemies have laid down their arms in a concerted effort to help the victims. Aceh rebels and Indonesian troops have declared a temporary ceasefire. Tamil Tigers have promised to stop attacks on Sri Lankan government installations and assist in the reconstruction. Somalian warlords have been forced to halt infighting and focus on rebuilding efforts. Perhaps then, this is the true message of the entire saga. That what we are doing, is focusing on the trivialities of terrorism and self-agendas, that we are forgetting our foremost responsibilities as human beings. Perhaps this was why God allowed the earthquakes to happen. I can only guess, I am only finite.

In the light of this incident, maybe we will learn how to veer clear of these individual differences and focus more on how best to prevent such disasters from happening once again. Because only then, will we earn the right to be termed human beings who are made in God's image. Only when we start showing the compassion which is expected of us.

Traveller fell apart at 3:44 AM

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