March 3, 2010

Act of God?

Watching the news and hearing people's personal experiences of the earthquake has given us something to think about. We can't help but make comparisons, as CNN has done, between Haiti and Chile. While this quake was 100 times more powerful than the one in Haiti, the devastation has obviously been much less. Over 200,000 were killed in Haiti; in Chile, the count is just over 800. Better infrastructure, preparedness and a very organized government reaction can be cited as reasons for Chile's less devastating outcome. But, we would like to point out something more general as the differentiating variable, and that is injustice.

With natural disasters, we often lament that nothing can be done, that it is an act of nature that can affect anyone. While true, the devastating consequences have much more to do with poverty than with randomness. Haiti is a poor country with a highly corrupt government. Chile is the most economically successful country in Latin America and prides itself on very little corruption. Personally, we think the difference in consequences has more to do with apathy than with God's will.

As US citizens living in another country, we are reminded daily that we are economically privileged. Jesus clearly teaches that believers with wealth have a great task ahead of them, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24). We have a moral responsibility to use our wealth wisely, to fight injustice and together with all Christians, to help build God's kingdom here on earth. What happened in Haiti is proof that we're not doing our job.

Our apathetic attitudes towards our neighbors in destitute situations has its consequences. We saw the same thing during Hurricane Katrina. Those who suffered most were the poor and marginalized. No one can prevent natural disasters, but we are capable of lessening their negative impact. The fact that Haiti suffered so much more than Chile is a result of our sinfullness and should serve as a reflection during this lenten season... Are we personally responsible in some way for the suffering of others? If so, how can we work to create a more just world?

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