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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Tsunami Aid Reflects Belief in Preserving Lifecomment (0)

January 13, 2005

By Bob Terry


The horrific destruction from the seaquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean leaves most of us numb. Amateur videos, shown via television, showed us actual pictures of people being swept away to their death by the raging waters. 
   
We heard haunting screams as loved ones were pulled apart. For some, the screams may have been the last sound they ever uttered. 
   
We saw massive buildings topple and small homes swept by the waters like dried grass on a windy day. It was destruction unlike most of us have ever seen. 
   
Perhaps the Dec. 26 event was the most documented natural disaster ever to occur. That is one of the “blessings” of living in an electronic world. One can be instantly present at most any place on the globe.
That may be one of the reasons for the outpouring of relief from around the world. The more than $4 billion pledged in relief is a record. It is hard to ignore the visual images of death and destruction and the pleas for help we see and hear every day. 
   
The loss of more than 155,000 lives so suddenly, so tragically, is hard to comprehend. Yet, destruction on such a massive scale is not unusual. In 1991, a cyclone and flood ravished Bangladesh claiming 138,000 lives. Twenty-one years earlier another cyclone and flood killed three times that many in the same area. 
   
Four of the five most deadly natural disasters of the 20th century all happened in China. More than three and a half million people died along the Yangtze River in 1931 in massive flooding. In 1959, flooding in north China killed more than 2 million people. 
   
A flood in Honan Province claimed 500,000 lives in 1939, and an earthquake in eastern China in 1976 killed about 500,000. 
   
Natural disasters are nothing new. In the mid-1300s, scholars estimate the Black Death plague killed about 75 million people in Europe in a five-year span. That was one-third the population of the continent at the time. 
   
Around the same time, the Black Death killed 60 million people in China. In the 1200s, an earthquake running from Syria to Egypt killed over a million souls. 
   
Wars, plagues, earthquakes, floods and the like are part of the recorded history of mankind. Trying to assign a particular theological meaning to this one or that one can be tenuous, at best. 
   
Still, there is a constant in all the heartache of the centuries. That is that Christians have responded with sympathy and compassion when given the opportunity. 
   
History records that deacons and deaconesses of the Christian church cared for the dying and buried the dead during the Black Plague days in Europe. Christian missionaries attempted to rally support for the Chinese divested by floods in the 1930s. 
   
When famine gripped China at the close of the 1800s, Baptist missionaries gave away their own food attempting to save the lives of others. Southern Baptist icon Lottie Moon died of starvation because of such actions. 
   
In the 1970s and again in the 1990s, Southern Baptists rallied to aid Bangladesh, building houses for the homeless and drilling wells for fresh water. 
   
Now Baptists are rallying to help those suffering from the tsunami that struck a 12-nation area around the rim of the Indian Ocean Dec. 26 (see story, page 1). 
   
It is not just because we saw pictures or heard screams of horror. It is because Baptists believe in the sanctity of human life. 
   
The Bible tells us that when God created mankind, He placed His own image in each individual human being. When Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, He died that every human being might have access to forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with the heavenly Father. 
   
God loves every human being. God is not willing that any should perish, the apostle Peter reminds us. He loves us all whether we are American, Chinese, Bengali, Thai, Indonesian or anything else. 
   
God’s first gift is life. Man’s first obligation is to say “yes” to God’s gift, to value it, to protect it, to nurture it, to allow life to grow and become all God purposed for that life at creation. As Christians, we value life. That is one of the reasons Baptists are rushing to help the survivors of the tsunami. Unless help is provided quickly, disease could claim as many or more lives than the raging waters. 
   
Some Alabama Baptists will go to do hands-on ministry. Some will give financially to make assistance possible. All of us can pray for the victims and for those attempting to help them. 
   
Above all, as Baptists observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday Jan. 16, we can affirm life as the good gift of God and do all we can to protect and preserve life in this nation and all around the world. 
   
For more information about the areas hit by the tsunami and ways to help the survivors, see pages 12–13.
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