Tsunami disaster raises questions about God

BY Jeff Mullin
(From EnidNews.com of January 09, 2005)

The world is still reeling from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that has taken nearly 150,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The earthquake spawned killer waves that swept away entire villages, making widows and orphans by the tens of thousands, and snatching children from the arms of their parents.
The question is being asked, as it usually is in the face of unspeakable tragedy, where was God? How could he stand by and let this happen?
"It was as if God had unleashed his anger on the people," said Haji Ali, a Muslim who saw his hometown in Indonesia wiped out by the waves.
Was this an act of a vengeful God? Was he somehow displeased with the people of south Asia and decided to give them the back of his hand?
The Rev. Robert Schneider, a priest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says no.
"This is not a punishment from God, this is a natural disaster," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "Our world is imperfect. Our Christian response is to aid and care for those people who've been affected."
Were the Almighty truly vengeful, he would have prompted the rest of the world to turn its back on the people of the devastated nations. But quite the opposite is true. Aid is pouring in from all over the world, and volunteers are flocking to south Asia to help the many people in great need.
God is in south Asia now. He is in every dollar of aid, every box of relief supplies, every pallet of food and bottled water. He is there in the hands of all of the aid workers, and in the strong arms and backs of those clearing debris, beginning the process of rebuilding and, yes, burying those who did not survive the disaster.
He is there in the doctors treating the injured and trying to keep disease from exacting an even higher toll.
He is there in the heart of every person in the world who has pledged money to the relief effort, whether that adds up to cents or millions of dollars.
And he was there in the miraculous stories of people who, seemingly against all odds, survived the tsunami and its aftermath.
On an island in the Indian Ocean, Namita Roy fled the raging waves and took shelter in a forest. There she gave birth to a baby she named Tsunami.
On another island, an 8-month-old boy slipped out of his mother's arms as the family fled the waves. The baby sank into the sea, but his father saw his toe sticking up above the waves and pulled him to safety.
A 13-year-old girl was swept off her remote island by the waves and spent two days clinging to a wooden door in the Indian Ocean before being rescued.
In Malaysia, parents found their baby daughter, less than a month old, floating unharmed on mattress after the tsunami. She was swept out of the family's beachfront restaurant, but found hours later.
A couple from Hong Kong vacationing in Thailand survived by clinging to a mattress for six hours before being rescued.
In Thailand, a brother and sister were riding a motor scooter to a local hospital, where the brother's wife was in labor with their first child. They were knocked off their scooter by the earthquake, then swallowed up by the sea. They clung to a lamp post, entwining their legs to fight the swirling waters. Eventually the sea subsided and they began walking to the hospital. A half hour later they were engulfed by another wave, and ran up the hill to the hospital, dodging three-foot wide craters being opened in the road by the waters.
"When we got to the hospital we fell in through the door," Jharna Dali told Britain's Telegraph News. "I would like to say I thought of others. I would like to say I thought of those I had seen dying before my eyes, but in that instant I could only thank God for my life."
God was there that day, and he will be there through the long months and years it will take to rebuild the devastated areas. And he will be there as life in that region goes on.
A Thai woman was seen on New Year's Day, cradling a baby in her arms. It was not hers, she said, it had just washed up near her. The boy was about nine months old, three months older than the women's daughter, who died. She didn't even know the baby's name.
"He is like me," she said, "he has no one. So he will be my baby. He will be mine now. That is how we will go on here. By becoming new families."
Not as new families, as one family.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"