Friday January 22, 2010
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds, Habakkuk 1:3.
Buried under the frantic efforts to bring relief to Haiti, this question persists. We are not the first to condemn the senselessness of this destruction and suffering; Habakkuk faced a similar horror, and asked the question of God, as humans have since the beginning of time.
The violence of nature is an ongoing, devastating phenomenon: wild fires in Australia, California, floods in Europe and South America, volcanoes in the Philippines, mudslides in South America, and the potential menace of global warming, are a few of the recent tragedies.
But all these, tragic as they are, are still vastly less than the violence and suffering caused by “man’s inhumanity to man.” The last century alone saw the loss of more than 100 million lives due to warfare, with vaster numbers maimed, displaced or bereaved. That doesn’t include the many victimised by despotic powers’ greed and corruption and lives destroyed by slavery and exploitation.
Two news stories today highlight this menace. Two boys, 11 and 12 years, in Britain brutally assaulted and tortured two younger boys in a “prolonged, sadistic violence for no reason other than that you got a real kick out of hurting and humiliating them," according to the judge who jailed them indefinitely.
In Vancouver, two police officers pulled a man out of the wrong house and attacked him without reason or identifying themselves, sending him to hospital. This seems to be a case of two policemen using the pretext of a domestic violence call to beat a man up—in this case the wrong man—purely for the sadistic delight gained from it.
The question comes to mind, whether the two—natural disasters and human violence--are related. The Bible infers that the sin of humankind seeps into the fabric of the earth destabilizing it, see Gen. 3:17, Lev 18:24-28, Jer. 3:2 and 9, but godly virtue increases the land’s fertility, Lev. 25:18-19.
This is not a one for one response, any more than every sickness can be blamed on the individual. Haiti, as others have done, is suffering some of the widespread natural violence as a result of worldwide sin. Of course, a direct human element is often observed in natural disasters, but it seems the general pervasiveness of sin is their underlying cause as with all suffering.
Yet despite all this, the Haitians, a deeply religious people, are facing this disaster with remarkable resilience. Of all the pictures I have seen, one stands out: a large column of people marching through the streets singing and waving their arms in defiance of the conditions inflicted upon them. Could I do the same, I wonder?