My, what a summer—unexpected flooding in central and southern Alberta, oil rail tankers exploding in Lac-Mégantic, devastating that small rural town in Quebec, record-setting heat waves in several parts of the country.
Catastrophic events like these can lead one to think we are in the midst of some kind of Apocalypse—not only here in Canada, but globally as fires ravage a Bangladesh clothing factory, killing hundreds of unprotected workers; fighting and violence continue to rock two Middle East countries—Syria and Egypt.
The news is so grim, one is tempted to turn off the TV and escape from the ubiquitous internet and social media chatter to some tiny peaceful island somewhere to regain one’s centring and tranquillity.
This is not an option, however, and as engaged Christians we cannot escape our obligation to, as the ancient prophet Micah instructed, “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” in the midst of our vulnerability. These fast-moving events give us an opportunity, like no other, to bring healing and hope to our suffering neighbours.
The nature of these tragedies remind us, once again, that, even though we may not be victims of specific events, or happen to be in the path of nature’s wrath, or living in areas of constant political instability, we are caught up in the human web of cause and effect, whether we are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist or secularist.
Herein lies the requirement of humility. These are not teachable moments about God’s judgement (as one letter writer wanted to suggest), but of God’s mercy and our obligation to do justice—to join as a Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer in cleaning up the mud and debris from our sisters and brothers homes in High River, Alberta, or to teach English to poor Egyptian children and youth in Beni Suef, Egypt as Isaac Friesen and Wanda Wall are doing to break down the walls of the religious divide.
It is a reminder when we buy that $12.95 shirt that says “Made in Bangladesh” that some poor family member probably got less than 50 cents to sew it; that when the flood waters inundate a developing urban area in a prosperous province that our unquenchable appetite for fossil fuels and for the latest upgrade to our smart phones is a disregard for climate change and the closing of our eyes to ruthless child labour in the mines of Zambia or the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Or just when Canadians look smugly at the rampant racism evident in their neighbour to the south, as was evident in the Zimmerman/Martin trial in Florida, they read the revelation of the Canadian government systematically starving indigenous adults and children in nutritional experiments during the 1940s.
While we, as a faith community, are not directly responsible for these horrific injustices, we, in a real way, become complicit with our living standards and keeping our distance from these realities. And when we see calamity as opportunities for justice, mercy and humility—not God’s judgment—we ourselves are changed.
A significant component of our conversion is that a fatalistic view of ourselves and our world is redeemed and changed from seeing God as an angry judge to experiencing a God of love and mercy, “not willing that any should perish.” It is in this spirit that we address, with humility, the victims of nature’s wrath and those suffering from man-made catastrophes.
Hostetler joins staff as Advertising Representative
D. Michael Hostetler, of Kitchener, joins the Canadian Mennonite staff as its Advertising Representative. “Growing up as the oldest of five in a missionary family to Brazil,” says Michael, “the Mennonite church has always been at the centre of my life. It was in my university years that I embraced the Anabaptist understanding of what it means to follow Jesus in everyday life. We live in a complicated world filled with technology and bombarded by information.
I am pleased to join a team committed to this vision as followers of Jesus.” As a self-employed producer and communications consultant, he also brings video and website skills to the position. He replaces Graeme Stemp-Morlock.