Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

January 19, 2005

Editorial: Where is God? Tsunami Relief Efforts

Response to the common questions of "where was God?" and "how could God allows this?" in reference to the devastation of December 26th's earthquake and tsunamis.

When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Indonesia sent gigantic waves crashing down on hundreds of thousands of hapless souls, countless people around the world asked: where is God? Touching on an ancient question that has plagued monotheistic believers through the ages, people wanted to know how their God could allow such horror to afflict innumerable innocent individuals in some of the poorest areas of the world. Nearly 170,000 are known to have died. Thousands of villages, fishing boats, places of worship, farms – decimated. Colin Powell remarked that it was worse than a war zone. We’ve seen the images and heard the tales of woe – and where was God?

I cannot speak for anyone else’s conception of God – but on January 8th I knew my answer. God was at the Jami Masjid in Las Vegas, where I attended a fundraiser at which the Islamic Society of Nevada announced it had raised over $70,000 for charities on the ground in South Asia (by the way, the crowd consisted of a few hundred Muslims as well as a couple of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and one Baha’i). The universal spirit of consciousness that I sometimes call “God” was with the Vancouver Buddhists that decided to sell their temple in order to send half a million dollars (Canadian) to the unfortunate recipients of Mother Nature’s blind movements.

God was most certainly with the dozens of major Christian groups who broadened their often praiseworthy humanitarian work – and raised millions of dollars – to include all of the affected lands. The Holy Spirit, the Buddha-nature, Allah, Brahman – something deeper than the everyday physical reality of mankind – was at work when one nation after another pledged billions of dollars for the short and long term relief efforts. The list of groups religious, a-religious, and probably even irreligious who have contributed to the humanitarian relief is too long to even begin mentioning names.

Often my rational mind questions what I mean when I say, “I believe in God.” Sometimes I am even convinced that I do not – but oddly enough this horrendous disaster has helped stem that tide of internal questioning. I may not understand what God is; what I do intellectualize is far different from what I once envisioned. But I do know Something is there, beyond my grasp, but leading mankind to compassion and noble deeds. A rabbi at Jewsweek was right on when he said, “Let our primary question in the wake of this tragedy be not ‘Why did it happen?’ but rather ‘What can I do to help?’”

The Pluralism Project has an excellent collection of articles relating to religious responses to the tsunamis. A search of Google News reveals the positive responses as well as the questioning that inspired this editorial.

Google is also hosting one of dozens of lists of charitable relief organizations to which you can add your donations. One not on their list was my personal charity of choice, the Association for India’s Development.