Church's role in natural disasters
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In the wake of the recent spate of hurricanes that have wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and the United States, and earthquakes that have ravaged Mexico, questions have been raised regarding the reasons for these occurrences and who or what is to be blamed.
From a Christian perspective, natural disasters are part of the created order moving towards ultimate fulfilment, and as they occur, they have the capacity to bring out the best and the worst in us. In light of this, there are some lessons to be learnt urgently, the first of which is the importance of collective responsibility in seeking to build a just society.
A just society is one in which all citizens have access to resources and services, which will minimise their vulnerability to the adverse consequences of natural disasters. Special consideration should, therefore, be given to those who are most in need. Policymakers must act decisively to ensure that the protection of the environment is a matter of priority in all developmental and related issues. Citizens should share responsibility in the protection and management of the environment, for example, by ensuring proper disposal of their waste rather than dumping garbage in gullies and drains.
When people act irresponsibly, the consequences can be dire. Canon Garth Minott pointed out in a recent sermon that citizens ought not to expose themselves, or be exposed, to danger unnecessarily. This underscores the point that we often seek to cast blame when disaster strikes, at times even accusing God, when we ought to point fingers at ourselves instead, for not having been proactive in preventing disaster, rather than having to look for resources to repair and rebuild.
Natural disasters also teach us that we need one another, and that together we are stronger.
At the same time, adversity can be a test of the kinds of human beings we are in terms of our faith and our character, and a reminder that we can draw strength from the Almighty. Through God's graciousness, we can trust that all our needs can be met.
Meanwhile, those among us who are able, must pool our resources to help reduce the anxiety that victims of disaster face, and ensure that what is collected reaches those in need. We should not allow administrative and bureaucratic obstructions to prevent these resources from getting to their intended destinations.
PUBLIC THEOLOGY FORUM
Ecumenical group of ministers/theologians