Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Presbyterians for Earth Care Lenten Reflections 2014
Advocating for Environmental and Social Justice

Isaiah 58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! 

Isaiah 58:6  Is not this the fast that I choose:  to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke?

On November 8, 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines with 200 mile per hour winds and a storm surge that reached 19 feet.  The destruction was immense and over 6,000 people lost their lives, 1.9 million people were rendered homeless and 6 million people were displaced.  This was a major tragedy, with it’s greatest impact on the poor.

As I surveyed the destruction in Tacloban during the weeks after the typhoon, I reflected on the inequity of being materially poor.  The vast majority of those remaining in Tacloban were the poor.  Besides the physical and emotional injuries from the typhoon, the diseases of poverty were readily apparent in the survivors due to poor access to health care, poor nutrition and toxin exposure. These are conditions which we have imposed on our brothers and sisters, either through commission or neglect.  I could understand (but not condone) that.   What seemed exceedingly unfair to me was that the poor were treated badly, even by nature.  We can break the bonds of injustice of man through prayer, advocacy and example, but how do we change the inequity of nature?

I could see that even here, the fault does lie with humankind. We cannot change the force of the wind or reduce the storm surge of a storm of a 200 mph typhoon.  However we can build up the resilience of the people to better withstand the forces of nature.  We can improve the health of the poor to allow them to better survive and recover from disaster.  We can improve the living standards so the people can have more substantial homes.  We can reduce income inequality so the poor don’t have to live in the most vulnerable margins of the land.  We can reduce the CO2 production to reduce the odds of developing even bigger and more devastating storms.

More storms will come, more earthquakes will occur and more droughts will afflict the land.  It is never a question of whether another disaster will occur, but when and where it will occur. The poor will always be with us.  However, we are called to care for them as our neighbors and family and to alleviate their suffering and to care for the land which sustains them.  We should make this care a priority in our lives.  We should do what we can to build them up and to petition our leaders to care for those who Jesus called ‘the least of these’.

Lord, help me to push past the constraints of my fears to confront those forces that oppress God’s people; to lift up those who have little, to comfort those who suffer and help heal all of God’s creation. 

Rick Randolph is a family physician in Lenexa Kansas who has worked extensively in the developing world.  He has provided primary care, public health and disaster response in the US, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and the Philippines.  Rick is a member of Grace Covenant Presbyterian in Heartland Presbytery.

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