Where is God when Disaster Strikes?
By Abdul Alim
Disaster is not to despair, and not to give into sadness. Life is a package with
ups and downs.
On the evening of June 25, 2006, about 50 people of various religious
affiliations gathered at the Islamic Center of Northridge, Granada Hills (USA)
to listen to an inter-faith panel discussion on the topic, “Where is God when
Disaster Strikes?” The event was sponsored by Valley Interfaith Council’s
Interfaith Relations Committee and moderated by Fr. Bob Bonnet. The writer
brings a first-hand account of the event.
Manish Sahu, a Marketing Executive said, “When disaster strikes, God is in the
same place where He is right now. One would ask where to find God now. If we
need to contact a person, we try to get his address or phone number. Since we
cannot see God, we can contact Him through prayers.”
Manish indicated that the Hindu faith believes in one God and God has many
names. He concluded his speech stating that during disaster, God is in the same
place where He is right now comforting and blessing us.
Rabbi Jan Offel, Temple Judea member started her speech with a humorous saying,
“When there are two Jews then there are always three opinions”. Rabbi Jan
indicated that the book of Job in the Old Testament discusses on the subject,
where God is when disaster strikes. Job loses his family, and is inflicted with
a terrible skin disease and his friends tell him that he must have done
something wrong because of which he is undergoing all the suffering. Job
rejected this notion and calls out to God.
God does not really give Job an answer to his painful question, but speaks about
how far God’s ways are above our own. Further, Job shows that God continues to
hear and respond to our cry. From this story, it is quite evident that when
disaster strikes, God is with us and comforting us.
Rev. Wayne Christiansen said, “Adam and Eve were instructed not to eat the fruit
from that particular tree, but eventually they eat the fruit. God asked if they
ate the fruit. Adam replied that if there was no fruit to begin with then it
should not have happened and things like that. When God asked again if they ate
the fruit, Adam finally conceded that they ate the fruit due to the peer
pressure (satan and serpent)”. From this story we need to understand that we
cannot keep blaming others for our mistakes.
Where was God when Jesus was executed on the cross? Did God abandon Jesus as the
language in the scriptures say? Rev. Christiansen said: “When we (Christians)
see Jesus crucified, we believe that is God”.
Omar Ricci, Chairman of Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) said,
“According to Islam, the relation between human and God is, He is the Creator
and we are His creation, He is unlimited and we are limited, He is powerful and
we are weak always seeking improvement. Omar explained that at the time of
disaster, God speaks directly to us: “No calamity can ever befall the earth, and
neither your own selves, unless it be laid down in Our decree before We bring it
into being: verily, all this is easy for God. Know this, so that you may not
despair over whatever good has escaped you nor exult unduly over whatever good
has come to you: for, God does not love any of those who out of self-conceit,
act in a boastful manner. (Quran 57: 22-23).
Munireh Moore from the Bahai faith said, ‘Whatever happens is due to the will of
God.” She recalled the event of Abd al-Baha, the son of Bahai founder Bahullah,
who chose to come to America on the more modest Cedric of the same line that
British passenger steamship Titanic operated. Abd al-Baha had reached America a
few days before the Titanic disaster. He remarked that he had travelled as far
as Naples with some of those who died in the Titanic disaster. Explaining that
in everything there is divine wisdom, he then spoke of death as the gate to the
other world of God and said that disaster showed both the need for man’s
technical skill and his ultimate dependence on God. Abd al-Baha’s remarks are
notable for avoiding both the most common reactions to disaster: excessive
sentimentality and intemperate criticism of society.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)