Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Earthquakes, Prayers and Questions

BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Tuesday 7th April 2009
Amanullah De Sondy

A powerful earthquake hit the medieval city of L’Aquila, 60 miles north-east of Rome yesterday. With the total number of dead rising it is said that as many as 10,000 buildings in the medieval city, as well as thousands of homes and a hospital, have been damaged. Images of cars covered in rubble, locals looking shocked, wrapped in duvets clutching their belongings have been shown on the news. I feel like a helpless bystander, praying and watching the misery and grief of others, finding it difficult to truly understand their plight.

The earthquake in Italy made me think back to the history of Jerusalem, which also experienced violent earthquakes. One of Islam’s holiest mosques, the Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock has also been badly damaged and even destroyed by earthquakes in the past. We don’t know why God allows such disasters to happen. But is it possible to take something positive away from the aftermath of an earthquake? Of course, easy for me to say in my comfortable setting, but perhaps such events can remind us all that however sanctified and holy the land, it cannot be just a warm feeling or thought, it must change the lives of those who revere it, preserving rights and humanity. Opulent places of worship are not revered for their architectural worth but what acts take place within them. Pushing us to consider that buildings and homes can be built and destroyed for a variety of reasons but their significance in our lives must push open the doors of our hearts to one another, as a shared humanity, in our moments of hardship as well as ease.

This reminds me of the 20th century Scottish author, Lewis Grassic Gibbons’ famous book ‘Sunset Song’ in which his main theme is ‘nothing endures but the land’, as life is given and taken by God on a daily basis, the land we all build and re-build our homes upon continues to live on, in the hope that we learn something about love from it for each other on earth.

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