Friday, February 20, 2009

And the the bushfires raged

This particularly moving passage was sent to me by a Sri Lankan friend who is now visiting in Australia.



The bushfires continue to burn in Melbourne’s suburbs, though the worst is almost over.


We are left with a blackened, desolate landscape, with overwhelming grief for those who died and with the shattered lives and guilt of those who survived.


Why do such dreadful disasters happen?  We search for answers, but there are none.


As those who have suffered slowly come to terms with their pain and loss, will they, and we, find it in ourselves to forgive…?


Why forgive?


It is the hardest, but most important act of all:  As a victim – to forgive yourself for living, while your loved ones have died, your home has burned, your life’s possessions are gone.  As a volunteer, a doctor, a fire fighter – for being unable to comfort another, save a life, put out a fire.  As a person – for being unable to do more to help.


Can we forgive a God who wreaks such havoc on innocent people for no apparent reason?  Or the looters and opportunists who are preying on the victims?  Or the firebug who knowingly lit those fires? 


Are we capable of such forgiveness?


The tongues of orange flame leap out at us, day after day – from our TV screens, newspapers, computers – burning into our psyche, our memory. It engulfs me. I cannot watch anymore.  An ambulance screams through the city streets, on its mission of mercy.  Its piercing call cannot be ignored. The pall of grey smoke hangs heavy over the city, making it hard to breathe. And I choke, remembering.  It permeates the buildings, reminding us.  Reminding us it isn’t over yet.   


Perhaps it will never be, for those who’ve seen and suffered.


From the ruins of the fires, the grass and trees will grow tall again, the flowers will bloom. Just as they did after the deadly devastation of Hiroshima.  Or following the terrible tsunami.  Just as the flowers bloom in the fields of war.  


It is the first sign of hope and healing – it tells us that the time to rebuild has come.


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