Saturday, 15 October 2011

Religion special - Some good advice

At this season of Jewish holiday, I am reminded of a story told me by my cousin who is a Roman Catholic missionary, working in the most deprived parts of Africa. He has four year assignments. At the end of this period he gets a six month sabbatical, where he gets to see family and stand in as a chaplain in some exotic places to chill out. In 2004, he reached the end of one assignment and it was arranged for him to be a chaplain on a luxury cruise liner for six weeks. This involved saying mass for passengers and staff (many Fillipinio staff are Roman Catholics). He was also their to discuss and help them with any moral or ethical issues which may crop up. Apart from that, it he was free to enjoy the fantastic facilities on the ship. Sounds like the perfect job?

Well for the first two weeks it was. Then the Indian Ocean Tsunami struck. Many of the staff onboard lost friends and family. Some lost their whole family. Many were extremely angry with God and told him they had lost their faith. My cousin is a very honest and decent person and struggled to make sense of what happened, let alone think of anything which could help a man who was stuck on a ship 3,000 miles from his dead family. At the height of his problems, he met an elderly couple from Edgware, who were Jewish and had been friends of his father. They took to dining together and my cousin found it good to have someone who didn't want to talk about the injustice of the Tsunami. At dinner, as he struggled to come to terms with what had happend, he mentioned this to his dining partner. The elderly Jewish man replied "You should consider the history of the Jewish people and the tragedies that have befallen us. Just because God choses you and God loves you, it doesn't mean God likes you, does it? I sometimes think it is a curse".

When my cousin went to his cabin and contemplated these words, he thought of all the struggles and hardships of the Jewish people. All of the challenges and holcausts. They have kept the faith through all. and are stronger and better for it. It gave him the strength to get over his own doubts and start practically helping those who sought his counsel. He said it made him realise that sometimes we need to look beyond the boundaries of our own faith and culture to make sense of things. A lesson for us all?

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