Opinion: Why does disaster befall people? – By AZUKA ONWUKA


People wake up and they are thankful to have woken up. All of a sudden, an explosion occurs and they are dead or seriously injured or their homes are destroyed and they become homeless. Some are right inside their homes when disaster visits them. Some are driving or walking when they meet tragedy.

What about the owner of the truck conveying granite that was said to have caused the Abule Ado, Lagos explosion? He must have woken up with no premonition that he would be the source of the deaths of many and the destruction of many houses and other property. He would be calculating what he would do with the proceeds from the delivery of the granite to the site where it was required. He never bargained that his truck would get stuck, probably because of bad roads. He would never imagine that the trapped truck would lead to the explosion of the pipeline that would cause panic in a densely populated city like Lagos.

Now think of the schoolchildren and their teachers who were affected in this tragedy. They were right inside their school when this disaster barged in on them. None of them scaled the fence to attend a party or a tryst with a boyfriend. None of them was drunk and engaged in any street fight. None of them kept late night or played truant. They were right inside their school as expected of them. The school premises would have been well secured from kidnappers, rapists and thieves, with security men on guard to forestall any emergency. The gates were locked. Their parents were confident that they chose a good school where good morals would be impacted on their children in addition to good teaching. They were confident that their children were safe. Then boom!

What about the family of four killed in the blast? A man and his wife and two sons were driving to church when the explosion occurred. They all perished. They would have woken up with gratitude to God for seeing a new day. They simply wanted to fulfill their religious obligation of going to church to worship God. Their neighbours who overslept or simply did not want to attend any church service that day would not have been killed. If there is no other member of the family left, it simply means that this family has been wiped out. If there is another child at home or in school, that child has become a double orphan in a flash.

The same thing is applicable to epidemics like the coronavirus currently ravaging the world. From country to country, people are getting infected and dying in their hundreds. In less than two months, over six thousand people have been killed by the virus across the globe. Why did the epidemic hit the world? Is it a punishment for something? Did the deceased die because they did something wrong? What about those who never contracted the virus or those who survived it? Did they do something good?

Similarly, when disasters like plane crash, train crash, auto crash, boat mishap, and building collapse occur, someone may point at human error as the cause. But when natural disasters like tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, flood, landslide, and volcano occur, what can be blamed for them? Why should they even occur? What value do they add to the earth? Why should people die through such unpreventable disasters? Did human beings commit any wrong to deserve to die in such disasters?

In the same vein, some diseases like cancer, heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, diabetes, which affect many people are difficult to explain, as regards why such people are victims. Even though lifestyle plays a major role in many of these illnesses, yet there are cases of those who lived carelessly but still lived into ripe old age in good health, while some others who were more disciplined were not that lucky.

Atheists would say that these are mere occurrences that are not caused by anybody but by the force of nature, neither were they meant to punish anybody. Theists would say that there is a divine connection to them. Christians, for example, would blame it on the work of the devil or God’s way of punishing the world for deviating. But if they were caused by Lucifer, did he get the permission of God to cause such level of havoc and destroy creations of God that he cannot create? If he got the permission of God, why would God destroy so many people, including little children who are not aware of sin? Would God derive any joy in seeing His creations perish like that?

Then there are countries like China, Indonesia, Iran, and Turkey and Japan which have natural disasters like earthquakes frequently. For example, between 1900 and 2016, China experienced 157 earthquakes of different magnitude, while Indonesia experienced 113 within the same period. These countries cannot do anything to stop the occurrence of earthquakes. They can only put measures in place to protect their citizens from the impact as much as possible. On the contrary, there are countries like West African countries which rarely experience natural disasters like earthquake, hurricane, and tsunami. Are these countries that experience more natural disasters less loved by God while their opposite countries are more loved? Does God hate His creation?

From the Christian perspective, it is believed that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent or ubiquitous. The implication is that nothing is beyond His power and knowledge. Therefore, nothing can happen within the earth He created without His knowledge or permission. To imply anything contrary is to puncture God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. Amos 3:6b confirms this by asking: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” If then disasters are caused by God, why does He cause them to happen and allow them to affect the old and the young, the worthy and the unworthy, the strong and the weak, the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor?

These are questions that confound me as an individual. The more I think about them, the more confused I become. I end up with more questions with no answers. Sometimes there are Christians who act as if they know the answers to these questions and end up confusing others the more. There are also Christians who blackmail others that they should never think of such, and that thinking or asking such questions is a sin. But such are simply blackmailers.

No matter how we pretend to understand life, it remains a mystery to a large extent. For the atheistic, certain disasters that affect some human beings and skip some are explained away as happenstance. But for the religious, they are explained away as favour or grace.

The only thing we are certain about in life is this moment. The next moment is not certain. So we should live every moment as if it were our last, doing our best all the time, so that if anything happens to us, we can rest assured that we have played our part adequately by making the world better than we met it.

Our hearts go out to all the victims of the Abule Ado explosion and their families. May the dead find peace and may the living find comfort. Punch

– Twitter @BrandAzuka


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