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Monday, June 14, 2021
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Abellanosa: Religion and disaster

Fringes and frontiers

DISASTERS are always tied to religion and the other way around. Since biblical times, floods, storms, and earthquakes have been seen as having something to do with divine will and power. There is a limit, however, in spiritualizing disasters. When the damage brought by calamity is so real, death and pain are not easy to rationalize. It is thus important to see things in perspective.

On one hand spirituality may be needed for people to survive. That religion has psychological functions and an existential value is a given. Indeed, it allows man to move forward in the face of strongest adversities. However, we must also avoid the danger of using religion, or even God, to justify our lack of planning or inadequacy in preparation.

There is truth in the belief that God is the end all and be all of things. The point however is not to forget more so displace in the equation the responsibilities of human agencies. Yes, there could be a discernable meaning of God’s plan or even providence in light of catastrophic incidents. But there must also be an objective explanation why things happen most especially if they are mainly contributed by human errors. Take the case of structures that collapse during earthquakes. The simple question is what kind of measure or quality control does our country have insofar as worthiness of structures is concerned?

We have been through lots of earthquakes and floods. This country is not new to these things. It is the nature of an active volcano to erupt, and whether we like it or not earthquakes cannot but happen where active fault lines are. We have been having all these natural disasters even before Christ. The question is what have we done to improve the way we respond? Has it become clear in the way we position ourselves, the way we space out structures that really we have learned as a people? We cannot but ask, of course, what have the government agencies done to ensure that all the things that have to be observed are observed and also being followed by companies and residents?

It is high time that we take Disaster and Risk Reduction seriously. Unfortunately, “DRR” has remained to be a subject in Senior High School which is not even taken seriously by students. The measure of genuine DRR literacy is in the way people respond to things not just after but also during and more so “before” the disaster. The problem with us is that we tend to romanticize our miseries and then resort to euphemism such as the sugarcoated word “resilience.” And then we have politicians capitalizing on people’s miseries, making themselves heroes in front of dead bodies.

Sadly, we are still waiting for a day to come when institutions, the government primarily included, remind us how to prepare for war in time of peace. This means for specifically of agencies insisting on people to follow stricter standards of living especially when it comes to building structures before any disaster could happen.

So where is the good Creator of the universe, now, in the foregoing discussion? I think the good Lord has gifted us with reason just like his. We must use this reason when we create things. So when time comes for earthquakes to happen, we could be more sensible in our reactions, without resorting to unnecessary spiritualization.

When someone claimed that he has the “divine” power to cause and stop earthquakes, people reacted. Apparently, that guy’s hallucinating. He is another example of someone who “capitalizes” on spiritualization in times of disaster. And that’s another serious matter to discuss.


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