I don’t remember too many other weeks as bad as this one for the sheer volume of tragic incidents around the world:
– 16th September – Washington DC, USA. 12 killed by a lone gunman with unknown motives.
– 16th September – Mexico. 110 dead after the country is hit by two storms: Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel.
– 19th September – Nigeria. 87+ killed by Islamic militants.
– 21st September – Baghdad, Iraq. 60 Muslims killed by Islamic militants at a funeral.
– 22nd September – Hebron, Israel. Patrolling 20 year old Israeli soldier killed by a sniper.
– 22nd September – Peshawar, Pakistan. 80 killed in a suicide bombing by Islamic militants at a church.
– 22nd September – China. 22 dead from the effects of Typhoon Usagi.
– 23rd September – Kandahar, Afghanistan. 11 Afghan police killed by Islamic militants.
– 21st-23rd September – Nairobi, Kenya. 62 killed by Islamic militants in a shopping mall, in a not-yet-over attack.
Oh, and let’s not forget: Mar 2011 to date – Syria. 100,000…that’s ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND killed during civil war/massacres (UN estimate).
And yet…we don’t know a fraction of it. These are just the incidents near the top of my BBC News feed. In truth, given global averages, there were likely around 9,000 killings across the world in the last 7 days. In the last year, India topped the global killing charts with 43,000 murders while Honduras endured the highest rate of murders, with 92 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year.
Sixty-six children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse or neglect every week in the industrialised world. Twenty-seven of those die in the US – the highest number of any country.
Regarding the killings by Islamic militants, Western public opinion continues to oscillate between naiveté that says, “if we’d only listen to their concerns we could make this all OK”, ignoring 1,000 years of ingrained hatred, and on the other hand the violent prejudice that wants to lash out against anything off-white and thinks we’re a few well-placed bombs from fixing the ‘Middle East problem’.
Thinking through all this as Christians, we can vary in our responses. Sometimes an incident will hit home particularly hard, and leave us almost gasping for air at the news of several deaths, while we shrug our shoulders at the news that 89 people were blown up. Then we might feel guilty about it for a second…but ultimately realise we don’t have the capacity or the obligation to feel deep personal grief at every tragic killing in the world.
However, there is one who does feel deep personal grief at every death in the world – ‘tragic’ in the emotive sense or not. Every time a human being dies, God sees the symptoms of sin and it grieves him – His sovereignty over all things does not diminish that grief in any way. See Genesis 6:5-6, for example:
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become…The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain”.
And when that person who dies has chosen to reject God and be without him forever, God’s grief is immeasurably greater – regardless of how ‘nice’ that person was. The damnation of a terrorist is no more or less tragic than that of a smiling mother-of-two who worshipped at the church of self.
How do we respond to God’s grief at sin and the effects of sin?