A Post-9/11 World of Suffering

September 8th, 2011

This weekend Americans across the country remember the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. On that terrible Tuesday morning ten years ago, nearly three thousand people died at the the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is appropriate and important that we observe the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Time has not healed all wounds for those who lost family, friends, and loved ones. Further, as countless public ceremonies, speeches, and rituals around the country these past few days have shown, 9/11 is a key part of our nation’s story.

Amid these observances, however, we should remember that other nations still struggle with violence, suffering, and death on a large scale. As heartbreaking and horrific as 9/11 was for us, we can’t let it blind us, especially we who are Christians, to ongoing tragedies around the globe.

Twenty-Nine Thousand Somali Children

One of the most pressing cases in point is the famine currently wracking the East African nation of Somalia. While tragedies and disasters cannot be “ranked,” and while even a single cruel death is one too many, the sobering fact remains that one of the worst droughts in sixty years has claimed the lives of at least 29,000 Somali children to date. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says nearly half of Somalia’s 3.7 million people are at risk of starving to death. Thousands of Somalis are fleeing the country, only to die at refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Although the drought and famine were predicted months ago, adequate international response hasn’t materialized. According to the relief organization CARE USA, Somalia desperately needs another $1.4 billion in aid. The United States has taken the lead in donating food but has had its share of problems. American NGOs (non-governmental organizations) find U.S. anti-terrorism laws restricting their work because the regions hit hardest by the famine are controlled by al-Shabaab, a group of radical Islamic terrorists fighting to overthrow Somalia’s government (though the country has had no stable government for two decades).

Many observers fear this situation cannot be successfully resolved. Somaliborn supermodel Iman told CNN, “This famine will be remembered as a famine that has destroyed generations of children . . . [It] was preventable but it is not salvageable.”

Beyond All Hope

Is Iman right? Christians do not believe any situation is unsalvageable. We trust the God who conquered the powers of sin, evil, and death through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The will of God will ultimately prevail: God’s good will for health and wholeness, for the hungry to be fed, and for a world at peace.

Our Christian hope doesn’t mean we can ignore our global neighbors’ suffering until God’s kingdom comes. “Take advantage of every opportunity,” Paul writes, “because these are evil times” (Ephesians 5:16). The tenth anniversary of 9/11 reminds us of the evil still at work in the world. It also offers us opportunities to become living signs of the fully redeemed future God has promised.

When Jesus saw hungry crowds, he challenged his followers, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). He miraculously fed the multitudes only after summoning them to share what they had. They didn’t dream that what they had was enough—but we trust the God who “is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). God unleashes the Spirit’s power within and through us. We can and must be God’s agents of change for Somalia and all “unsalvageable” situations of violence, suffering, and death.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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