Somalia’s suffering

This continues to be a time of considerable sorrow, and shocking news from the other side of the world. Somalia – torn by more than two decades of civil war – is now revealed to be in the midst of a food crisis beyond our imagining. – people are fleeing the country, desperate to find comfort – many are dying on the way. To make matters worse, one of the warring parties  refuses to let aid agencies into the southern sections of the country, their excuse is that the crisis has been exaggerated as an excuse to bring spies and misinformation among the Somali people. It is a war for power, and these people are dying because of greed and ignorance among their leaders – they are pawns in a struggle between competing religious and political ideas. For this, God came in Jesus Christ. It is this kind of constant conflict that fosters doubt, and leads many to declare their indifference about the promises of Scripture and the Gospel that is ours to share. “If God so loved the world”, they say, “how can things like this be allowed to happen?” and I confess that it is difficult for me to see the images and hear stories about the plight of hundreds of thousands of Somali’s, and then pick up Paul’s letter to the Romans and make sense of it. “Nothing can stand between humanity and the love of God, he says – Nothing. Yet the love of God seems strangely absent as I listen to a woman who has lost three children to starvation, or watch as people who have crossed desert wastes and national boundaries line up for a dish of rice and broth . I cannot comprehend the need – I have never been that hungry, nor have I felt threatened by my government, my neighbour, or by one who disagrees with my religious ideas – and I struggle to know what the love of God looks like under these circumstances. Perhaps it looks like the white American woman, wearing a bright shawl and head-covering scarf – who stands in the midst of the crowd in Mogadishu and calls for the world to help these people. Or it looks like the mothers (and occasionally grandfathers) who allow their children to eat first. Whatever it may look like, the gospel promises us that when the bottom drops out of an orderly society, God’s love will not – cannot abandon us. We comfort ourselves with Paul’s words – assure one another that “… all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…” but that is not going far enough. Romans 8 28 – the only piece of this particular puzzle that many of us bother with – fools us into thinking we can relax, because we are content, we must be those called – we feel, by default, that this sentence describes us… But the good news is not about good times. The gospel of Jesus Christ is primarily concerned with the deliverance of those who suffer – Jesus preached a coming kingdom without boundaries – religious, political, or economic. And Paul writes convincingly about the end of human ideas about power, control and “possession”. “Who is against us?” Paul asks, knowing that it doesn’t matter. For God is for us – so convinced of human worth, that God came in human form God abandoned power as we know it – and gave us the power of faith – hope and life in return. Paul, who will be hunted and ridiculed, and stranded and starved, and eventually tried, convicted and killed for his faith, remains convinced that none of that matters – All that matters – is that God’s love in Christ met him on the road one day, and changed his perspective. The good news isn’t about good times – it is about changed minds, and fresh perspective. So perhaps today the love of God looks like an organization that, despite the difficulties, has convinced the Canadian government to match relief donations in order to have an impact on a seemingly unstoppable situation. Maybe God’s love is revealed in the opening of borders, and the setting aside of our fear of the ‘other’ Perhaps God’s love will find its way to our loaded pantries, show up in our own foodbanks increasing our awareness of how we produce food in this country, and how we might help others recover the means to feed themselves. It’s hard, but not yet impossible. For the gospel finds us in our desperation, and offers hope in many forms – if only we would hear it. May we all rejoice with Paul – as tragedy unfolds – as solutions present themselves – and wherever the opportunity arises – and claim for ourselves this stunning truth: “… neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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