The events of last week can be aptly described by the first line of Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Perhaps only the order of this statement has to be inverted, because it was veritably the worst of times. It was the news that hit world headlines.
On June 23, 12 young footballers and their coach from the Wild Boar Academy football club were trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. This prompted an immediate search effort that left the world on tenterhooks. Many hoped for good luck while others prayed. The dramatic, days-long, herculean international rescue mission was successfully completed last Tuesday when the Thai Navy Seals’ Facebook page read: “12 wild boars are out of the cave and their coach. Everyone is safe.”
Nearer to home, yet another human tragedy was being consummated! In the past few days about (numbers are hardly ever exact in these cases) 204 human beings died after being packed into unsafe boats and vessels by smugglers, with 103 lost in a shipwreck. Three babies were among 103 migrants who died. A small rubber boat that was packed with migrants capsized east of Tripoli; where an estimated 41 people were rescued.
Faith makes everything a success
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in a week, about 1,000 migrants were returned to Libyan shores by the Libyan Coast Guard, who intercepted small boats as they made their way towards the open sea. IOM Libya Chief of Mission, Othman Belbeisi, said: “There is an alarming increase in deaths at sea off Libya’s coast”.
In politics, the world situation did not seem that much better. Donald Trump is not the only culprit, but the West could do better without his antics. The EU is in crisis and so is Nato, while the British political scene is in shambles. But a breath of fresh air was brought about when a peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea was announced on July 10, which ended a 20-year standoff between these two nations.
In all these ups and down, one is tempted to ask: how can we live the joy of the Gospel? Is Pope Francis living in cuckoo land? Our faith is tested and we are tempted to react as St Paul’s listeners did when he spoke to them about the resurrection of the dead: “some of them sneered” (Acts 17:32).
In these difficult and bruising circumstances, however, it is like the “others” who said to Paul: “We want to hear you again on this subject.” That is how a believer should react. Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who visited the families of the boys trapped in the cave, had urged the gathering of people who conducted a vigil at the cave’s entrance, to trust in the authorities: “There has to be faith. Faith makes everything a success” and “Our children are strong and vigorous. Everything will go back to normal”.
This should remind us Christian believers of our Lord’s words to Jairus when his neighbours had scared him with the news of the death of his daughter: “Don’t be afraid. Just believe” (Mk 5:35-36).
Our faith’s stronghold lies in words of the psalmist: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Fr Joe Inguanez, a sociologist, is executive director of Discern.
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