When Discussions on Evil Don’t Help

English: Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar Pakistan

It’s late Sunday night and my head and my heart hurt. The death toll rises from a double suicide bomb attack on a vibrant church in Peshawar Pakistan. Those of us with connections in the area are glued to news sources, trying to glean whatever we can from the pitiful western coverage of this event.

I wrote a friend earlier today – her children are in school in Kenya, and though they don’t live in Nairobi, I know this school and I know that they visit Nairobi and probably this shopping mall. I have not heard whether her children were there or not, but the likelihood of her not being affected by the siege on the mall is slim. Another friend whose daughter lives in Kenya posts that she is “safe” and I breathe for her.

At one time I would have wondered “Where is God in all of this?” I no longer wonder in the same way. Instead I scream for mercy to save us from ourselves. To save us from the awful horror that is human on human violence, so much worse than any ‘natural’ disaster. I cry out that God intervene in what St. Augustine describes as the “parasite” of evil.

The problem of evil has been a conundrum for theologians since time began – but when people are in pain, discussions on the problem of evil seriously lack the ability to give substantive comfort. Instead, what people need is empathy, prayers for courage and hope, prayers that they will feel the love and mercy of God in a tangible way. And when I think prayer is not enough – I go back to the words of my son Jonathan this summer: “Mom, when you think about it, prayer is the greatest expression of empathy we can possibly give.” 

In April after the Marathon bombings I wrote a piece called In the Midst of Tragedy- A Call to Pray and I leave you with an excerpt from that piece:

“Five times a day a Call to Prayer rings out across the Muslim world. I am fully aware of the differences in truth claims between Christianity and Islam – yet five times a day for much of my life I am reminded to lift my heart in prayer. And the five times stretches to many times in between until I realize I am slowly learning that I can’t make it through this life without prayer; that the exhortation to ‘pray without ceasing’ is life-giving. That in the midst of senseless acts of violence, in the midst of tragedy, I am called to pray. Called to pray to a God who hears and loves, a God who is present in tragedy and accepts our “why’s”, a God who knows no national boundaries or citizenship, a God who took on our human pain and suffering when he ‘willingly endured the cross’……And so I pray the only words I know how: Lord have mercy. Hear our prayer. Free us from our pain.

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For more information on the church bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan I urge you to go to this post written by a blogging friend who lives in Peshawar: Peshawar church bombing a condensation of horror and loss.

From the article:

“This is a catastrophe for the Christian community of Pakistan,” my secretary Ashbel Taj said to me a few minutes ago.  He had just returned from visiting the wounded at Lady Reading Hospital after today’s bombing at All Saints’ Church in the heart of the old city of Peshawar.

Despite having the largest trauma unit in the world, the hospital scene was chaotic, he said, as staff struggled to treat the 200 or more wounded.  Information is still emerging, but numerous conversations with colleagues in Peshawar – I’m in the USA at the moment – indicate that 150 or more people were killed.

I’ve tried to reach Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, but he is fully occupied in visiting the wounded in hospital.  He was on visitation at the parish in Bannu, in Waziristan, but rushed back upon news of the bombing. Read the rest of the article here!

19 thoughts on “When Discussions on Evil Don’t Help

    1. Khaula – so lovely to hear from you. I’ve missed you! It is so very sad. My heart aches for so many. Including though the perpetrators who are drowning in a sea of hate and violence.

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      1. Always good to visit your blog. Sometimes I don’t feel like it, but do end up praying even for the perpetrators. May God pull their hearts and minds out of the dark place they are trapped.

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  1. Thank you, Marilyn, for the reminder to pray. It has been a week-end of horror in Pakistan, Nairobi , and other places on our planet. My brother and sister-in-law live in Nairobi and the whole community is in shock. it makes our hearts cry out, “come, Lord Jesus, come!” We long for His reign of justice and righteousness, in a new home where righteousness dwells! In the mean time, we are praying for all those affected directly.

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    1. So sorry Ruth. Thinking of them. And I can imagine they have friends who are affected personally by loss and trauma, besides the shock to the whole community. and YES – to your last sentence!

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  2. Thank you, Marilyn. I am so conscious that these are the same people who packed the church on Good Friday for the 3 hour devotion and who heard the words exhorting them to be prepared to die whether death come suddenly or as a process.

    I pray too for God’s mercy for the perpetrators who may have been compelled by threats to take the action they did.

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    1. Wilma – I thought the same thing! I remember reading that post on Good Friday in awe. And now a few months later….
      I also agree with your last sentence. While that’s a hard one, more and more I’m compelled that this is where the real tragedy lies, where even more mercy is needed. I’ve been thinking alot about this since I heard a story from Syria that I’ll relay to you another time. Thanks.

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  3. Thank you, Marilyn. In such times I am reminded of one of the late great John Stott’s comments on faith and suffering, that is worth sharing: “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.”

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  4. My heart broke reading about the bombing in Pakistan. I have never been but God has given us heart for this nation. My prayer for these beautiful people is that God would be their comfort at this time.

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  5. This is so heartbreaking. I have no words. Thank you for the link to Titus’s blog. Be blessed today, daughter dear. The sun is shining here, a new day and a new week. Praise be to God!

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