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Hallo again to all.

Christmas was less celebratory this year because of the horrendous destruction of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It's very hard to feel festive and joyful when you are made aware of the awful deaths of so many innocent people. Whilst not the very worst disaster of the last century -- that distinction probably belongs to the 1970 cyclone in Bangladesh -- the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 is indisputably the most disastrous event in the era of global electronic communication.

The Christian Science Monitor has a good column on the reaction of churches to the tsunami. We note that within the Anglican world, explanations vary from Sydney's warning 'disasters are part of his warning that judgement is coming' to Canterbury's reflection on believing in a God who permits disasters to Washington's observation 'Stuff happens. Stuff happens.'

We've read columns comparing this tsunami to the Black Death for its incomprehensibility in the arms of a loving God. Comparisons abound to disease, war, and pestilence. Indonesian currencyAnd the developed nations are mobilizing a great deal of aid to the afflicted peoples, whilst the well-known relief organizations such as the Red Cross and OXFAM are mobilised to help distribute and administer that aid.

A grandparent, now deceased, was fond of noting that 'any problem that you can solve with money is not a problem.' Whenever he said it, he'd be bombarded with questions about what to do in the case that one had no money, but he stuck to his story, and through the years we've come to understand what he meant.

News reports indicate that over the past several years, anarchic violence in Darfur, Sudan, has killed more than 2 million people. Disasters, not all of them natural, have disrupted the lives of millions in Haiti, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Iraq as well as Sudan. And the AIDS pandemic has killed millions in Africa. What is it about the tsunami that has made so many people respond so quickly with financial support?

The tsunami was televised -- and we all understand it as temporary. The survivors' stories and grief were compelling, and then they were gone. We looked at photographs of dead people for a few days -- and then we looked at photographs of destroyed cities. Now the news wires are chock-a-block with photographs of cargo planes, water distribution, makeshift hospitals, and heavy equipment that should, in time, help rebuild what was there. In time, people and cities and regions will return to some sort of everyday life. Sudanese currencyIt will take a generation to finish grieving the dead, but there is a powerful sense that Indonesia and Sri Lanka and Car Nicobar once had degrees of peace and prosperity and order. The tsunami took it away, but money can bring it back. To be part of the solution in Sumatra, you can make a charge on your Barclaycard.

Sudan seems so much more dire. People seem to be unwilling to donate money to Sudanese relief because they can't imagine that it will do any good; the money will be gone and Sudan will be no better. No one has a concrete understanding of what it is that their money will do, and we all have a vague fear that our donations to buy food for Sudan will be used for bullets instead. To be part of the solution in Sudan, perhaps you need to devote a piece of your life to it: go there, and try to make a difference on the ground. We note such a programme in the Diocese of Bradford. Christian Aid, an interdenominational group in the UK and Ireland, offers this prospectus. The incomparable French charity Médecins Sans Frontières is on the ground in Sudan, and seems to know how to use your money to help keep people alive. Watching the horror in Darfur, we cannot imagine a solution. There is nothing to restore.

Perhaps Sudan and Rwanda and Haiti and Iraq and the Congo are unsalvageable; perhaps money donated to their relief won't save anything. Or perhaps it will? It seems to us that, in general, non-Anglican pieces of the Christian world are doing a better job of giving more than just money to further the solution to problems in what seem unsalvageable places. Should we, as Anglicans, try to fix this?

See you next week.

Cynthia's signature
Brian's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 9 January 2005

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