A Call to Action

Over the last week I have received dozens of heart-rending and thought-provoking responses to my latest article, and I am thankful for each of them. Personally, I believe the tsunami and its aftermath is the most serious issue now facing humankind. The "war on terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan looks like child's play in comparison. We need to talk about it and share with one another so that it can continue to shake us-and bring us together. If you have lost a friend or relative, or if you have friends who lost loved ones, I am especially eager to hear from you. The story of each human being, rich or poor, tourist or native, survivor or victim, must concern us.

The question, "What about the dead?" is burning in many of my readers, and probably in millions of people. One woman who wrote said, "The teachings of Christ make it very clear that one must put one's faith in him to go to the Father in heaven." That may be so. But what about those who do not express faith in Him? Can they still be saved, or will they be condemned?

I believe Christ's words are always final. But that does not mean I understand them. Indeed, there is much that we humans will never understand. His words reflect a holy mystery that cannot be unlocked by the intellect, but only by the heart.

Simone Weil, a Jewish convert to Christianity, grasped this when she wrote:

Christ does not save all those who say to him, "Lord, Lord." But he saves all those who out of a pure heart give a piece of bread to a starving man, without thinking about him the least little bit. And these, when he thanks them, reply: "Lord, when did we feed thee?"... An atheist and an "infidel", capable of pure compassion, are as close to God as is a Christian, and consequently know him equally well, although their knowledge is expressed in other words, or remains unspoken. For God is Love.

It was because of God's love that Jesus became human, and took upon himself the sin and suffering of humankind. It was because of God's love that Jesus rose from the dead and liberated a host of Satan's captives. Is it our place to condemn souls?

Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest? for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." And Paul says that "neither height nor depth, nor death, nor anything, can separate us from the love of Christ."

Some of you called my article premature. One reader said, "We who have lost kin need time to come to terms with that loss... We have no bodies to bury? This is the time simply to hug folk and love them."

Another wrote, "Our religious order has lost around 130 sisters and monks who worked among the very poor in the affected region. The wounds and grief are raw, and the losses still have not sunk in? We need time to weep and mourn and get used to the empty spaces that are suddenly in our lives.."

My heart goes out to you who live in the midst of the tragedy. Your words ring true. For those of us who live far away, however, there is the danger of getting back to our normal daily pursuits and blocking out what doesn't directly affect us. To let this happen is to turn a deaf ear to God's language.

Let me clarify here that I do not see this disaster so much as a judgment on the directly affected nations as a call to the rest of us. Let us not act like those described in John's Revelation, who "were not killed by the plagues, but would not repent nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver? Nor did they repent of their thievery, their murders, their sorcery and immorality."

In this connection I would like to share a short midrash (scriptural commentary) recently sent to me by a friend: As the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to freedom, the Egyptians pursuing them drowned. Witnessing this, the angels in heaven cheered and danced. God silenced them and asked, "How can you rejoice when my children are dying?"

This is a vital point: rather than dismiss as "unsaved" all the non-Christians who died-and continue our lives unmoved-the only fitting response to the events of the past weeks can be to repent.

God willing, my wife and I and others from our church will visit some of the hardest hit areas in Indonesia in the near future, and gain a glimpse of the unimaginable suffering there. We pray that such a trip will change us.

You may reprint this article free of charge providing you use the following credit box: Article by Johann Christoph Arnold (http://www.christopharnold.com/). Arnold is senior pastor of the Bruderhof - an international communal movement dedicated to a life of simplicity, service, sharing, and nonviolence. (http://www.bruderhof.com/).

In The News:

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Multiple religions have long coexisted in Xinjiang: white paper - Xinhua | English.news.cn  XinhuaBEIJING, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The history of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China shows that multiple religions have long coexisted there, with ...
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I'm the gay grandson of a persecuted Jew; freedom of religion is not freedom to harm  The AgeAs the government moves to a Religious Discrimination Bill, we need a level-headed debate, writes the head of Australia's largest LGBTQI health organisation.
Remarks by President Trump in Meeting with Survivors of Religious Persecution  Whitehouse.govOval Office. 4:22 P.M. EDT. THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. We'll be leaving for North Carolina in a short while. I think some of you will be outside.
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India rejects critical US religious freedom report  Al Jazeera EnglishState Department report says senior BJP officials made 'inflammatory speeches' against religious minorities last year.
Israeli archaeologists discover signs of religion in 9,000-year-old city near Jerusalem  Religion News ServiceJERUSALEM (RNS) — The region around Jerusalem has a long history of religious practices. Those practices might date back to the Stone Age. The people ...
Religion vs law: Big religious fight erupts over Ranchi court's order to distribute copies of Quran  India TodayA 19-year-old girl has been asked by a Ranchi court to distribute five copies of Quran as a punishment for posting a communal post on social media. Judicial ...
Religious circles condemn US anti-China propaganda  The NationBEIJING - Chinese religious circles have expressed deep indignation and strongly condemned the defamation of China's.
Israel Folau and the tension at the heart of religious freedom  The GuardianTwo core democratic principles are at stake in the Israel Folau case, and they will not be challenged at the pulpit or on the football field. Andrew West. Sat 22 Jun ...
Pope Francis gets it right on Curia reform and women  Religion News Service(RNS) — In appointing seven women to the Vatican congregation that oversees religious orders earlier this month (July 9), Pope Francis achieved a double win.
What Religion is BTS? - BTS Members Religion and Faith  Seventeen.comIt's not hard to tell BTS is super dedicated to their loyal fan base, the ARMY. Whether it's putting out exclusive *content* for them via a mobile video game or ...
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Quebec's religious symbols law passes 1st legal test as judge refuses injunction  CBC NewsA Quebec Superior Court justice has rejected a request to temporarily suspend parts of the province's new religious symbols law, upholding a ban on the ...
In remote Appalachia, liberal Christians gather at Wild Goose to pray — and plan  Religion News ServiceHOT SPRINGS, N.C. (RNS) — For years, liberals — even liberal people of faith — have been wary of fusions of faith and politics, careful not to pierce the ...
Pete Buttigieg's Memorable Debate Lines About Religion Still Missed the Mark  PatheosOne of the high points of tonight's Democratic primary debate for me was what Mayor Pete Buttigieg said about religion. But the more I thought about it, the more ...
Cory Booker could be a candidate for the religious left  The Oakland PressWASHINGTON >> Questions about religion can paralyze some politicians, but not Cory Booker.
A matter of faith: Democrats embrace religion in campaign  The Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — When 10 Democratic presidential candidates were pressed on immigration policy during their recent debate, Pete Buttigieg took his ...
Canada Stifles Religious Freedom  National ReviewThe Canadian Charter explicitly guarantees “freedom of religion and conscience.” Guarantee, shmarantee. Canadian law is fast becoming intolerant to religious ...
Asia Got Religion  The GlobalistReligion is proving an increasingly divisive factor in the politics of Asian nations.
The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team doesn’t just tolerate religion, it embraces it  ThinkProgressThe U.S. Women's National Soccer Team has been getting a lot of attention and well-deserved adulation over the past 10 days, ever since they won their second ...
Quebec's Ban on Religious Clothing is Chilling: To Be Like Us, You Must Dress Like Us  Human Rights WatchRight after 9/11, my mom started wearing the hijab in Sarnia, Ontario — a town with little diversity on the U.S. border. She had made a conscious and unilateral ...
Terror has no politics, religion or caste, says Amit Shah as Lok Sabha passes NIA Bill  India TodayHome Minister Amit Shah said in favour of the NIA Bill that terrorism has no religion, politics or caste in it.
Montenegro: positive changes to religious property rights but more clarity needed  Council of EuropeThe Venice Commission in its opinion published today welcomes “genuine efforts” of the Montenegrin authorities to replace the 1977 Law on legal position of ...
Religious liberals want to change what it means to be a Christian voter  PBS NewsHourDES MOINES, Iowa — The meeting began with a prayer. Heads bowed and eyes closed. Then the members of “We Are Church Confessing,” a group of liberal ...
Shopping is America’s religion. But this isn’t the first country to confuse the two.  The Washington PostWe like to tell ourselves that in some past era, humans celebrated events that had real meaning: harvest festivals and national holidays, Christmas and Yom ...
Americans have little confidence in religion, Congress, news media  The Jerusalem PostGallup first conducted their Confidence in Institutions poll in 1973, around the time of the Watergate scandal. The ratings have been updated annually since ...
How a Rugby Star’s Homophobic Posts Got Australians Arguing About Religion  The New York TimesSYDNEY, Australia — Religion isn't a welcome dinner subject for most Australians. The country has grown increasingly secular, and in one recent poll a majority ...
New poll shows growing view that clergy are irrelevant  Religion News Service(RNS) — In her 2004 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson sketches a portrait of the Rev. John Ames, a small- town pastor in 1950s Iowa ...
All religion would be threatened. | Dan Peterson  PatheosThis is a potentially very important issue: "Asma Uddin: If we deprive Islam of its status as a religion, all religion is threatened" "A Push to Deny Muslims Religious ...
Photos of the Week  Religion News Service(RNS) — Each week Religion News *Service* presents a gallery of photos of religious expression around the world. This week's gallery includes Hindu and ...
Brunson at religious freedom summit: 'It's wonderful that I can be here in person'  Religion News ServiceNorine and Andrew Brunson attend the State Department's 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington on July 17, 2019. RNS photo by ...
Holy See urges tolerance, inclusivity to combat terrorism against religions  Vatican NewsBy Robin Gomes. The Holy See is urging patience, perseverance, wisdom, courage and leadership in countering terrorism against every religion by fostering ...
Was Abraham Lincoln an Atheist?  HistoryEvery U.S. president has been a member of a church, except for one: Abraham Lincoln. Famously opaque on the subject of religion, Lincoln's personal faith was.
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Religion briefs  Oklahoman.comBoy's choir from London will perform in metro The internationally known London-based boy's choir Libera will perform at 7 p.m Aug. 1 at First Southern Baptist ...
Democrats Need to Talk About Their Faith  The AtlanticAmerica is still an overwhelmingly religious country. Candidates shouldn't be afraid to reflect that.
Chick-fil-A inspires new religious liberty law in Texas  Washington ExaminerChick-fil-A is known for its delicious chicken sandwiches and summertime lemonade. Now, it can add another accolade to its list of accomplishments: being the ...
Bringing the insights of religion into development | BWNS  Baha'i World News ServiceA panel at a major international development conference reflected advances in thought about local capacity and the role of religion in social and economic ...
Inside the radical religious commune in the heart of Sussex where there is no crime or debt, but you can’t do  The SunIN their ankle-length plaid skirts, shapeless blouses and headscarves, the women of the Bruderhof community look like peasants from a past age. But this is not ...
Democrats Have The Religious Left. Can They Win The Religious Middle?  NPRFaith voters who have a mix of liberal and conservative values are up for grabs in the 2020 election. Democrats hope to win them over.

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