Thursday January 14, 2009
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. 2 Thessalonians 1:6–7.
No-one can see the devastation in Haiti and be unaffected. Immediate reports indicate that no resources are available. Columns of survivors walk with nowhere to go, carrying their dead and wounded. There are no police, politicians, government officials to be seen, no heavy equipment to rescue the trapped, simply looters scrounging from the rubble.
One reporter offered a hungry girl some money—but there is no market standing to buy food! Most of the capital, Port au Prince, is destroyed. There may be thousands, under the rubble, alive, injured or dead, no-one knows. Others lie dead or seriously injured in the streets with no help in sight. Away from the city certainly thousands more are in a helpless state, no-one knows for sure, communications are destroyed.
One reporter reminded us that “God” and “Jesus” are common currency in Haiti, one woman saying, “God is very angry”! It is popular wisdom, it seems, to blame God for a catastrophe like this, if not for a deliberate act, at least for allowing it to happen. But reviewing the recent history of Haiti, there are other, man-made reasons contributing to such devastation.
Michaelle John, Canada’s Governor General, escaped from the despotic rule of Papa Doc Duvalier with her family when she was 11 years old. Since then, Haiti has been plagued with poor government, violent street gangs, and continued grinding poverty. Those who do work mainly subsist off the land from their own crops. Successive self-serving governments have failed to provide basic infrastructure for the county, leaving it with absolutely no resources to help itself.
The majority of buildings in the capital were considered unsafe without the effect of an earthquake, yet 50% of the population who are unemployed could have been gainfully employed for half a century developing the country’s infrastructure. By contrast, with all its failures, the US was able to tackle hurricane Katrina’s devastation with its own resources.
The bigger picture from the Bible suggests that sin in general has destabilised the planet that is our home. Genesis 3:17–19 suggests that sin infected the earth causing it to act contrary to its original design, and Romans 8:20–22 looks forward to the time when it will be restored. Furthermore, today’s text promises that there will be a final accounting for those who deliberately create conditions of misery—not just in Haiti, but by exploitation and terror around the world throughout history.
Belief in a God of compassion and love is the only way to work through tragedies such as this. For if that God does not exist, then there is no hope for restoration or justice—this world is all we have. In fact, there is a massive international humanitarian effort underway to assist Haiti in its need. What is most noticeable, it is countries with a Christian heritage that are in the forefront of disaster relief, here and in previous disasters.
The ability they have to provide relief is the comparable prosperity they have to afford it. It is their Christian values—albeit currently in decline in the west—that have been largely responsible for these countries to develop the freedom and affluence they enjoy or exploit today. And it is the reflection of a God of love imaged within them that motivates their compassion for those in need.