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Just as the world united in grief after the tragic carnage of 9/11, so too has
the world become one after the cataclysmic tsunami that has claimed,
according to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald (February 8, 2005),
295,608 lives, and has affected 11 countries in the Indian Ocean region.
The tsunami destroyed entire villages and families. Long after the
houses have been rebuilt and the people have returned to a kind of normalcy
in their lives, the effects of this catastrophe will continue to be felt.
Local economies and the infrastructures needed to support them will have
to be rebuilt, and there will be the continuing psychological impact on the
survivors, who will always feel guilty for having survived and who will
never be free of the pain of losing their loved ones.
No one has been unaffected by the tsunami, although some of us, by
the grace of God (swt), have not felt its devastation. As the English adage
goes, every cloud has a silver lining. And in the face of such an awesome
natural calamity, we have seen the best side of humanity, as people rush to
provide aid and assistance to the survivors.
The tsunami has also allowed those working in poverty relief and aid
programs elsewhere to turn the spotlight on their efforts to avert other
calamities that are of the same magnitude but occur at a much slower pace.
Among such people is Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General’s Special
Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, who pointed out during an interview on CBC
radio (January 12, 2005) that more than 2 million people in Africa die each
year of AIDS. And then there is Rabbi Michael Lerner, who reminded us in
his essay in Tikkun (January 5, 2005) of a recent UN report that 29,000 children
die every day from avoidable diseases and malnutrition.
Calamities and their accompanying suffering and struggles are tests for
humanity. They remind us that we are not in control of the universe, and
thus are a lesson in humility. They remind us that life is fragile and can be
taken from us at a time and in a way that we do not expect, and thus are a
lesson in priorities and perspective, a check against the materialism and
hedonism that is overtaking our consumer capitalist lives. Who would
really care that they do not own the latest iPod if they knew that they were
to die tomorrow? ...