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Tsunami and the Lessons of Disasters

People are asking, "Why would God allow such a catastrophe?" Jesus himself referred to recent disasters and warned people to keep alert, because death may come without warning. God created natural laws for an ordered universe to provide a consistent structure; that is why we call them physical laws. Spiritual laws also see to it that we are responsible for our creations as embodied souls. Many call it karma, the law of spiritual cause and effect. I call it the law of infinity: every action returns to its source eventually because the soul is eternal. Martin Luther King once said, "The arc (or arm) of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that the Earth is a school where souls come to learn how to be responsible creators. What can we learn from this natural disaster? And what have we learned from the man-made catastrophe on 9-11?

Almost completely ignored by the extensive coverage in the mass media of the Christmas 2004 tsunami disaster is the importance of understanding how global warming is contributing to the flooding of coastal areas because of the melting of the polar icecaps raising the level of the oceans. Recent United States policy has neglected to respond to this global crisis by refusing to agree to the Kyoto Treaty. Most scientists believe that humans' burning of fossil fuels that produce heat-trapping gases is causing the average global temperature to rise steadily. An increase in the severity of hurricanes is another of its effects. How much worse global warming may have made this tsunami disaster may be debated, but it is also a global warning of what must be faced in the future if this problem is not prevented. Expanding world population that has already reached about 6.5 billion is another concern that humanity must consider.

Humanity is learning important lessons from this catastrophe. People are working to correct the early warning systems so that human loss can be reduced in the future. Many are becoming aware of the needs of people around the world for clean water, food, health care, and education. Thousands have been dying every week in Africa from preventable causes. The attention given to this crisis is showing people how we can solve such problems if we work together. Perhaps some of the most significant lessons are being learned by the United States military, who are finding how much more satisfying it is to be helping people instead of helping some while harming others in Iraq. The world has been needing a wake-up call in order to mobilize more support to help the poor, such as the previously languishing Millennium Challenge Account.

A natural disaster that is not caused by a human "enemy" tends to elicit universal support for relief, uniting charitable efforts. Yet the civil wars that have been going on in Sri Lanka and Acheh also may now receive needed attention. Perhaps the thousands of useless deaths in these wars could be prevented in the future by intelligent peacemaking.

What about the 9-11 wakeup call? Why has the United States reacted in fear with ruthless retaliation against countries that had little or nothing to do with the crimes of 2001? Why have most American refused to recognize the actual motives of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida? How could PBS Frontline present in 2002 a two-hour program on "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero" in which they asked religious leaders the cause of this human disaster. They showed their simplistic explanations of "evil" without presenting one comment that the violence of United States foreign policy may have been a factor in this blowback or retaliation from the Muslim world that has suffered from American imperialism in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other places?

Humans on Earth are facing an evolutionary crisis that threatens our very survival. We have the weapons of mass destruction that could destroy the entire human species. No other creature on Earth threatens us but ourselves. The Earth could be polluted by radioactivity such that few might survive with ghastly mutations and the start of another long process of evolution. To survive or prevent such disasters we must learn how to solve our problems nonviolently. To prevent desperate people from committing desperate crimes we must assure that justice and mercy are available to all. We can learn from the wisdom of our greatest sages, or we can continue blundering with greed and violence until the suffering becomes to great that we learn from that misery. God gives us freedom, and the choices are ours.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

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