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Faith Amid Chaos

Faith Amid ChaosAfterlast month’s disastrous tsunamis, some people are grapplingwith unanswered questions of faith. But religion, says Tufts’chaplain, can be a guidebook for how to help those strugglingto rebuild.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.12.05] In the wake of a natural disaster like the tsunamisin South Asia, many people question how their religious faithexplains such a massive loss of life. According to Tufts chaplainFather DavidO’Leary, many of the world’s religions offer explanationsfor the unpredictable and destructive while teaching followersto help their neighbors rebuild.

“I wouldsay a Christian perspective would be that there's an active willof God and a passive will of God,” O’Leary explainedon National Public Radio. “And passively, God'swill is to allow creation to be, so natural disasters happen.I would not say that any natural disaster is punishment from Godby any means. I would not say that's the mainline Christian viewat all.”

While somepeople may feel that the tsunamis are a punishment inflicted byan angry deity, O’Leary – a RomanCatholic priest and the first Catholic to serve as Tufts chaplain– believes that they are consequences of nature that cannotbe prevented or rationalized.

“Wehave to separate personal evil from natural evil, and so I wouldnever say that a natural disaster is a manifestation on anyone'sgoodness, badness, in the eyes of a creator God,” O’Learytold NPR. “Natural things happen, and some thingsare very tragic.”

The same conceptcan be found in other faiths, explained O’Leary, who alsoteaches in Tufts’ Departmentof Comparative Religion – explained.

“Hindureligion has Shiva, which is the destroyer god,” he toldNPR. “Hinduism would be very comfortable with theidea of destruction and then a rebirth from destruction.”

Accordingto Christian theology, the concept of free will that lets humansmake their own decisions is the same principle that allows forthe randomness of events like the tsunamis. But O’Learysays that line of thought is widely held. “Most of the monotheisticfaith groups would have very similar outlooks,” he explained.“The opportunity is now how do we use that freedom to helppeople.”

Indeed, forO’Leary this multifaith perspective anchors the drive toaid those beset by tragedy regardless of creed or ethnicity.

“Wehelp not because they’re Islamic, we help not because they'reof a particular nationality,” O’Leary told NPR.“We help because they're in need.”

”Froma Christian perspective, the story of the Good Samaritan was reallyan answer to the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’”O’Leary said, citing a passage from the Bible. “Andthe answer was, ‘My neighbor is anyone in need, regardlessof religion or nationality.’”



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