|TSUNAMI PRAYER & REFLECTION|
| See prayer and worship resources, plus news, in the links & quotes below.
Tsunami Prayers explores the importance of faith in the aftermath of the Asian earthquake & disaster. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are explored through personal stories of survival in this new BBC2 series.
Latest add'ns inc: CAFOD prayer, Christian Aid youth resources, Anglican
material, a Salvation Army leaflet, online music from Kenneth Morrison
& CTBI materials. Also pieces by Fraser, Wood, Campbell & Henderson....
Glynn Cardy and Jim Cotter. Plus reflections from Christian Century.
Personal contributions from across the world on World Peace Prayer.
REFLECTION: IS GOD A DISASTER AREA?
As far as limits are concerned, I think it best simply to remain silent and to leave the unresolvable unresolved. The belief in resurrection is not the 'solution' to the problem of death. The 'beyond' of God is not the 'beyond' of our cognitive capacity. Epistemological transcendence has nothing to do with God's transcendence. God is 'beyond' [in] our lives. The church is found not where human capacity fails, at the limits, but rather in the middle of the village.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Tegel Prison, 30 April 1944)
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to caste my lot with those
who age by age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
(from Natural Resources by Adrienne Rich)
[01 Jan 05] As the scale of the Asian tsunami disaster becomes ever more apparent -- the United Nations is now describing it as one of the world's worst-ever natural humanitarian disasters in modern times -- people across the world are turning to prayer. (1)
For many in the secularised West this may be a puzzling reaction. The immediate aftermath of the earthquakes and tidal waves spreading out from Indonesia and the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 saw an outbreak of questioning in Europe: 'What kind of God could allow this?' It may not be the right way of putting the question, since it assumes a 'god' who is but a projection of ourselves writ large (as Bonhoeffer indicates), but the depth of the religious dilemma raised by such disaster cannot and should not be avoided.
However thought (and theological thought) is not the first, instinctive response. The first response is a cry of anguish, helplessness, despair and puzzlement mingled with hope, determination and willingness to do something (no matter how small) to respond. This is the response of giving, longing and desiring alongside those who are bereft, bereaving and destitute. It is prayer.
Often our prayers are incoherent, cliched even. It does not matter. In touching the heart of God (whether we intend that, or not) we are allowing our own hearts to be touched and melted. What was stone can become flesh in the face of the one we meet in Jesus, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has put it.
Such prayer is instant and agonising, planned and spontaneous, confessional and inter-confessional, faithful and doubting, knowing and unknowing.
On the morning of 1 January 2005 I did a web-search on 'tsunami' + 'prayer'. There were 902 news items (far more, as you read this) and 180,000 regular web items. Again this will have mushroomed by now. And it is happening in a matter of days.
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (the official ecuemnical body) is providing Tsunami prayers and information on the response of the national denominations in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales -- together with news of churches action domestically and internationally. There is also a suggested liturgy, news from Sri Lanka, and a tsunami update page.
In the US Liturgies, reflection, hymns, prayers and texts are being made available by the United Methodist Church.
Church World Service, the international development arm of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA, has put up a Tsunami hymn, which is available for one-off congregational use in association with ecumenical fundraising efforts. It can be found here, with music. The story of the venture is here: 'Christians unite in tsunami hymn and prayer'. It's not the greatest lyrical creation, but it is heart-felt.
Here is prayer service material from Catholic Relief Services (*PDF), from CAFOD, from Christian Aid (for youth), from various Anglican sources, and from the Salvation Army. This powerpoint presentation is from the Evangelical Alliance in the Netherlands. Another prayer from Redcliffe college.
There are general prayers for use in bereavement available on this site, too.
A virtual prayer room, a 'quiet space', has been established on an ecumenical site in the US. It is there so that we can pray alongside the victims. See also the Upper Room. This is from the Ascension Sanctuary.
The Canadian Primate Primates's World Relief and Development Fund has a tsunami update on its site, plus some excellent resource materials,
“Even while we may feel your absence in our lament, we trust you to be the One who grieves with us and who is present in the touch of each of us, their brothers and sisters, who offer hands and hearts to rescue and to rebuild places and lives. May your healing love be felt through us as we remember and reach out to those in need.”
For a moment in the New Year, silence, prayers and vigils accompanied (often muted) celebrations. Life and death are with us in a moment of transition. The Pope led prayers and a Mass for the tsunami victims.
This from the Archbishop of Canterbury:
“The big picture doesn't always help, if it takes our eyes off local, individual stories. Someone said about the slaughter of the Jews in the death camps, 'It isn't six million dead - it's one person dead, times six million'. You could be overwhelmed by that; you could feel there was no hope or faith possible. But our Christian faith talks about a God who isn't content with the big picture alone. In Jesus he comes alongside us as a human being, he shows that he is a God always involved with people one by one.”
This from CMS:
Merciful God, who in your great love and goodness hears the prayers of all your people and is ever-present with those who walk in the shadow of death: we hold in our prayers all who suffer loss and devastation in the wake of the tsunami disaster.
Comfort those who mourn. Give hope to those whose hope has been taken away. Strengthen the will of people everywhere to generously give help and aid. Guide governments and agencies leading relief programmes.
For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for the life of the world. Amen
More CMS prayers, including to from Madagascar and Bangladesh, collected by John Carden, are available here. Reports are going up on the USPG site, including one from the National Christian Council of India and another from Thailand.
Prayer and worship resources are being created and curated by the National Council of Churches in Australia, by the Church of Scotland. See also Beyond Our Tears.
The hope people experience is often vulnerable, traditional and honest:
[Malaysia Star]: Jan 2: KOTA KINABALU: Candle-lit boats were sent off at the popular Tanjung Aru beach here at the stroke of midnight in memory of those who perished in last Sunday’s earthquake and tsunami.
[India News]: Porayar, Jan 1: A Special prayer for the departed souls in the Tsunami attack will mark the New Year in the Basillica at Velankanni, the battered pilgrim town in Nagai district.
According to Church sources, Thanjavur Bishop Dr Devdoss Ambrose who is coordinating relief works in the town, will conduct the special prayer.
For decades, Velankanni had remained a special destination for New Year celebrations for people of all religions. Lakhs (devotees) used to gather in this town on New Year's eve to have a glimpse of the Lady of Good Health.
This is the first time [that] this church [will] wear a deserted look on New Year. Only the priests [from] the Church and very few people are found in the town today. PTI
[Asia News]: Thailand, 31 Dec: The local Bishop, Mgr Pratan Sridarunsil, said the death toll might surpass 2,000, whilst the known injured are 5573.
Leaders of the country’s various religions celebrated liturgies and suffrage rites for the tsunami victims and prayed for the families affected by the tragedy. Full story.
People of faith across the globe are united in hopeful silence.
"In Malaysia, even though the major religion is Islam, religious leaders of all faiths have held a mass multi-faith memorial service on Friday to be united in prayer for victims of the Asian tsunamis.
Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society President Sarath Surendre said, "We want Malaysians from all walks of faith to participate in the memorial service. We want to show that people from different faiths can unite and pray for the tsunami victims."
* Tsunami aid hope mired in financial politics
* Tsunami questions our ideas about God, says bishop
* Major tsunami cash scandal feared
* Missionaries accused of exploiting tsunami victims
* Catholic and Anglican archbishops pray for tsunami victims
* Tsunami: lives could have been saved says Christian aid agency
* Clinton: tsunami response will strengthen religious unity
* Christian agency tells of tsunami horror on India's coastline
* Finance ministers freeze tsunami countries' debts
* Christian Unity prayers focus on tsunami
* Anglican diocese gives $100m to tsunami appeal
* Methodists affirm tsunami support and pledge to Make Poverty History
* Aid agencies meet with Blair to discuss tsunami
* Christian Aid warns of social tsunami
* Chancellor to harness tsunami energy for Africa
* Tsunami makes climate change action vital say church leaders
* Churches fill as tsunami prayer and giving mounts
* God is not a disaster, says Archbishop
* Massive church response to world's worst disaster
* Tsunami: Justice as well as relief needed, say Christians.
* Time to act on injustice says Archbishop of Canterbury
THEOLOGY IN THE AFTERMATH OF TSUNAMI
A bishop has indicted God of the tsunami disaster (Church of England Newspaper, 03.02.05)
Simon Barrow, Is God a disaster area?
Giles Fraser, God is not a puppet master
Rowan Williams, The Asian tsunami
Simon Barrow, Does Christianity kill or cure?
Simon Barrow, In Christ suffering is faced but not effaced
David B. Hart, Tremors of doubt (Wall Street Journal online)
Rick Lord, N. T. Wright and Asian tsunamis
E. Allen Campbell, Tsunami theology for dummies
Christian Century, Creation groans: tsunami theology
John Buchanan, Why, God?
Charles Henderson, God and the tsunami
Richard Holloway, Big questions believers have tried to answer
Michael Lerner, How could God allow this tsunami?
Peter Sawtell, Eco-justice, earhquake, tsunami and God
Charles Moore, Why God is to be found in the terror of the tsunami
Albert Mohler, God and tsunami: theology in the headlines
Barney Zwartz, God alone knows why there is suffering
Chris Erdman, Alan Roxburgh, Praying and preaching in the face of tsunami
[To clarify, in linking these pieces I do not necessarily endorse everything they say - though naturally my responsibility for what I have written myself is unavoidable! This selection is designed to offer a cross-section of mainstream Christian views across the theological spectrum. I'm at one with Giles Fraser, Rowan Williams, David B. Hart, E. Allen Campbell and David Wood, for what it's worth.]
Can Disaster Silence Speech?
It has become a cliche to suggest that the Holocaust made it impossible to speak of God. The Holocuast certainly made glibness, the cloaking with platitude of what Conrad called 'the heart of darkness', quite obscene. For this we should be grateful. If we open our mind's eye, make vulnerable our imagination, to the sheer scale of suffering... then easy spech concerning peace, and love, and harmont (and God) is silenced from the start.
More in Nicholas Lash, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God (Ashgate, 2004). Added on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2005.
God & Disaster
“An omniscient god must have known the tsunami was coming. An omnipotent god must have had the power to prevent it. For the benefit of atheists like myself, would the believers please explain what happened?” (The Australian 4/1/2005)
Such questions naturally arise as we face the Indian Ocean disaster. Any attempt at an answer, however, is perilous if not offensive. How dare we resort to theology at times like this, with hundreds of thousands dead, and so many lives shattered? Isn’t any answer just a lame attempt to avoid our bewilderment and suffering?
As we struggle with this tragedy and take responsibility for healing and reconstruction, I offer no answers, but I do suggest a point of clarification. Other religions have valuable insights to contribute, but this is specifically Christian.
An omniscient (all-seeing) and omnipotent (all-mighty or all-powerful) god is not the God of Christian revelation. The omniscient, omnipotent god is a logical human construct, the god of western philosophy. But can God do anything and everything? Can God really do whatever God likes? If so, why didn’t God intervene on Boxing Day? Is God negligent or just monstrously cruel?
Christians facing these questions do not resort to arm-chair philosophy or even to reading the bible. We go to Bethlehem and Calvary, to the cradle and the cross of Christ.
Here we find God the helpless baby, God the helpless victim of evil, God who is neither all-seeing nor all-powerful but certainly all-loving. Indeed, the only omnipotence known to God is the almighty power of love, offered always, to all people, unstintingly, in life and in death.
This God is no far-off spectator, occasionally meddling in human affairs, running the world on magic.This God is Emmanuel, God-with-us every step of the way, standing in the flood-tide of events and human experience, committed to the risk of life without reserve, part and parcel of every moment of history, woven into the very fabric of the universe in all its heart-breaking beauty and all its searing pain.
God is not a genie in a bottle to grant our wishes or rescue us, but the Lover who holds us in pierced hands and will not let us go.
Our hearts are bleeding, but we never walk alone, for God’s heart is broken too, broken and wide open to embrace us all.
Father David Wood
Parish Priest of Grace Church Joondalup
Anglican Chaplain to Edith Cowan University
from the Wanneroo Times, with thanks.
The Post-Tsunami God
My children have learnt a new word: tsunami. The silent ‘t’ resonating with the silent crosses on New Zealand roadsides. ‘T’ for tragic, terrible, and terrifying. The sea, which is such a part of my family’s life, is now also a part of so many other families’ deaths. It is hard to comprehend.
New Zealand has changed for the better in the last 50 years. A tragedy in Asia back then would be as removed from our everyday world as a famine in the Sahel today. It isn’t just television that connects us, it’s our neighbours. It’s those Sri Lankan teenagers collecting relief money outside The Warehouse. It’s the Indonesians, Thais, Sri Lankans and other nationalities that are a part of us. We are a part of Asia. The world has grown smaller.
In the wake of the Tsunami there have been a number of opinions expressed on God and tragedy. The Dean of Sydney said disasters are part of God's early warning system that judgement is a-coming. Mr Mehboob of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said, “We believe that whatever happens in the world, it happens with the sanction of God, and nothing can happen without his sanction."
Regardless of their differences both these men seem to have a God who is all-powerful, in control, and yet for some reason allows tsunamis to do their thing. One writer to the New Zealand Herald told us that this tragedy was because God has created us with free will. I fail to see the correlation.
Indeed, I find these views of God, commonly held by many well-meaning Christians, morally repugnant. If one understands God primarily in a parental metaphor then there comes a time as a parent, despite the independence you are struggling to let your teenager exert, when you leap in, using every bit of power you possibly have to save your child. For God to hold back, allowing the disaster in order to teach a moral lesson, makes God a monster.
I think it’s time to change metaphors. God has been trapped too long in a parent or super-parent mode. I find the metaphor of God as love, particularly in the aftermath of the tsunami, more helpful. God is that power called love. Period.
God is not a being. God doesn’t stand by watching his son die on a cross. God is, literally, the love that is flowing through Jesus and will live on after his death. God is, literally, the love of the aid worker crying with the bereaved Indonesian mother. God is, literally, the selfless giving and compassion of so many – of teenage collectors, deans, and councils.
However, that being said, I can’t comprehend God. God doesn’t fit any one metaphor or system. God isn’t a mathematical equation with one clear answer. As I listen to myself talk I hear a mixing of metaphors, struggling to find meaning amongst mystery, sense in the midst of silence.
In the last month I’ve officiated at the funerals of two children. I find the following poem, adapted from Jim Cotter, expressive of my feelings.
Barely I believe yet truly,
God is here though hard to see
God is love and known most fully
Suffering on a withered tree.
And I trust renewing Spirit
In and through our common life,
Weaving threads all torn and broken,
Shaping hope out of strife.
Yet I do not understand
How shock, grief and pain
Are part of any great plan.
Just hold me, comfort me, keep me sane,
In the palm of your pierced hand.
(c) Glynn Cardy
Vicar, St Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland, New Zealand
[This article was written as a guest editorial for the February 2005 edition of Tui Motu magazine. With grateful acknowledgement.]
via the Sri Lanka Relations Committee at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland:
TIDAL WAVE DISASTER IN SRI LANKA
A communique from the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
A disaster of unprecedented proportion hit Sri Lanka on the morning of Sunday
26th December. The tidal wave Tsunami left a trail of destruction in many
countries of South Asia but Sri Lanka appears to have been the worst affected.
As I write this, nearly 22,000 persons have been confirmed dead. Several more
are still reported missing and the numbers of dead keep rising each new day.
Many of the dead are the elderly and young children. Over 2,500,000 persons
have been displaced from their homes. The destruction to property is
inestimable. Whole villages have been wiped out. All this came close on the
heels of major floods and earthslips that occurred in the same affected areas
only a few weeks ago. The North-Eastern and the Southern coastal areas of the
country have borne the brunt of the disaster. Apart from the physical
destruction, the people are in a state of trauma and shock. These are the many
challenges that confront us now.
Teams from our Church and the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka are
visiting all the affected areas to take stock, assess the real needs and
provide relief. I myself have already visited the Trincomalee and Batticaloa
districts in the East where I saw the huge destruction that had taken place.
Tomorrow, I visit the Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts in the South. We
were able to provide some immediate relief in the form of dry rations for
cooking, sleeping mats, basic medical supplies, baby milk powder, drinking
water and cooking utensils. These visits are also an act of solidarity with
both the affected of all ethnic groups and faiths as well as the many clergy
and lay persons who are actively involved in providing comfort and relief to
Our needs are enormous. Thanks to the overwhelming response we have had locally,
we are able to provide some immediate relief. This will have to continue for at
least six months as houses have to be rebuilt for most of the affected. There
is also a need for para-medical and trauma counselling personnel who can assist
local voluntary efforts. It is long-term rehabilitation rebuilding houses,
providing the wherewithal for economic livelihood (replacing destroyed fishing
boats, restoring farmlands together with inputs for farming, rehabilitating
small businesses, etc) - that is going to be the biggest challenge.
I should therefore like to appeal to our friends and partners to support us with
whatever financial assistance that is possible for this work. Funds can be
transferred to the account of the Bishop of Colombo Account Number 01-102324101
with Standard Chartered Bank, Fort Branch, Colombo (SWIFT Address: SCBLLKLX).
For those who prefer to provide material assistance (tarpaulin tents, light
roofing sheets, other building materials, etc), kindly contact us and we shall
let you know our needs. We also ask for your prayers for all those affected by
this tragedy and for all involved in providing assistance.
A Prayer from Archbishop Rowan Williams and Cardinal Cormac
You are always faithful and are rich in mercy.
We pray for our brothers and sisters who have died, or who have lost loved ones and livelihood in the Tsunami earthquake disaster.
We know that every life is sacred to You, and that each person is held in Your hands.
We commend the dead to Your loving care, those who mourn to Your compassion, those who fear to Your comfort, those who despair to Your protection.
We ask this through Your Son, the Light that shines in our darkness, Jesus Christ.
When Catastrophe Strikes
Eberhard Arnold (c) Bruderhof daily dig
Only when we take human existence upon ourselves in its starkest and most humiliating misery—a misery in which nothing has meaning—can we win through to the only possible way to live. Only when we taste the lot of all, when we become involved deeply in world suffering, one in heart with the need of humanity, can we win through to our true vocation. Only when the conscience becomes active, only when love is born out of suffering, only when hardship leads to liberating action, is victory near.
Emily Dickinson (c)
I reason, Earth is short,
And Anguish – absolute,
And many hurt,
But, what of that?
I reason, we could die –
The best Vitality
Cannot excel Decay,
But, what of that?
I reason, that in Heaven
Somehow, it will be even,
Some new Equation, given –
But, what of that?
Living in the perspective of the resurrection
Here and Now
Brian Wren (c)
Here and now, in your need,
hungry, broken and bereaved,
God will dignify and bless,
saying yes and yes and yes
and the tears of grief shall glow with joy,
and the makers of peace shall bear God’s name,
and the givers of mercy be praised.
and the hungry shall be fed, and the mourners shall be loved,
and the last shall be first and the lost shall be found in the Commonwealth of love,
in the Commonwealth of love.
Personal prayers from people around the world.
Compiled by: Simon Barrow, 01 January - 07 October 2005
(1) The deadliest earthquakes since 1900 were the Tangshan China earthquake of 1976, in which at least 255,000 were killed; the earthquake of 1927 in Xining, Qinghai, China (200,000), the Great Kanto earthquake which struck Tokyo in 1923 (143,000), and the Gansu, China earthquake of 1920 (200,000). The deadliest known earthquake in history occurred in 1556 in Shaanxi, China, with an estimated death toll of 830,000, though figures from this time period may not be reliable. Source: Wikerpedia tsunami database.
* The contents of this page are the responsibility of the author, not of any of the bodies or individuals linked.
|Updated 01:15 GMT 07/OCT/2005 In association with Ekklesia *|