My heart was broken when I discovered that one of my former professors, John Rawls, one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, stumbled in his faith when he came up against the problem of evil.
He seemed to have lost his way as he tried and failed to come to terms with the problem of theodicy. In his essays that were published posthumously, we discover his unfortunate, though understandable, failure in faith. Why is there so much pain in the world when there is an omnipotent God?
Perhaps many still struggle with this same question when they reflect on what has happened in Haiti in recent days.
Haiti is a country with a proud history, securing its independence after defeating the armies of France, Britain and Spain.
The first country to free every single enslaved person on the land and to abolish the cruel system that once enslaved them.
The first country to guarantee the freedom of every single enslaved person to set foot on its soil.
The first country to recognize equality of rights for all human beings whatever their gender, economic or other condition.
Haiti is no ordinary place. If you have visited the country and have seen the creativity reflected in its paintings and carvings, its art and craft, if you have encountered the love and joy its people display in spite of their economic situation, you know that Haiti is an extraordinary place.
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Throughout its history, Haiti – that country with the largest number of Baptist believers in the Caribbean – has known pain and distress. The reasons are many and complex and, even before the earthquake, the way forward was never going to be easy.
While we may spend precious time seeking an explanation for the tragedy in Haiti – and it is likely that we will find no answer that will satisfy us completely – we must remember that there is something else that we can do. We can do something to help bring change to Haiti’s millions. And we can do something now.
Days after the earthquake struck, Baptists were on hand playing their part in the rescue operations. They are still there distributing relief supplies, and we will remain engaged, doing all we can to aid the redevelopment of Haiti as the days pass. If you send your gift to Baptist World Aid, you will contribute to enabling the Haitians to sing a new song and to look to the future with hope.
When we face tragedies, like the one in Haiti, let us act in the best traditions of human solidarity. Only after we have done what we should can we afford to struggle with the difficult issues that generations have tried and failed to understand.
And we will consider the heart-rending problem of pain – with the certain knowledge that we are committed to do as much as we can to help overcome the terrible pain others feel and we feel with them.
Love can pour out from anguished hearts.
Neville Callam is general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. This column first appeared in BWA Connect, the BWA’s newsletter.