Friday, July 19, 2024


RZIM_apologetics_kenya_university_garissa_john_njoroge_terrorist_attackOnce again, Kenya, my homeland, has been thrust into the international news headlines over the last couple of days due to the deeply painful and senseless massacre of students at the Garissa University College in the eastern part of the country. I am deeply saddened by the horrific nature of this tragedy, and I join the many across the world who are praying for the victims. I especially pray with all sincerity for the parents, siblings and relatives and friends of the 147 students who lost their lives, and those who were injured.

As I write, some are yet to learn of the fate of their family members. Many will soon receive the news that their loved one is never coming home. I cannot even begin to imagine the agony they are going through right now. And the problem spreads to anyone else who fears that he or she might be a victim. A good deal of the misery that they will all face cannot be quantified. Even after the initial shock wears off, fear and tension will persist, and life for them will never be the same.

It has been said that human beings are the only creatures in the world who have learned to ask questions instead of relying on instincts.

In times like these, our questions are unleashed in their fullest force upon us. I’ll highlight a couple of the ones I take to be the most frequent and also the most important:

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What Can I Do?

Perhaps the best answer I can give here is to encourage you to keep doing what you’re probably already doing; pray sincerely for those affected by this tragedy. Short of turning back the clock, there is nothing any human being can do to erase the pain of what has taken place. Only God can touch the hearts of the victims by His comforting presence. And yes, pray also for the perpetrators of this evil, even as the authorities do all they can to bring them to justice. From the very pages of the Scriptures to our own day, we are presented with characters who singled out others for extermination and who ended up being heroes of the faith. The Apostle Paul was one such person.

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In addition to prayer, we also need to remember the victims in an active manner. We are grateful that many world leaders have condemned these attacks, and a few have promised to stand with Kenya in the aftermath of this tragedy. But, judging from previous experiences in Kenya and elsewhere, it is reasonably accurate to expect that the world will soon forget, and move on to another crisis. It can be overwhelming to think of trying to help in the midst of all that goes wrong in our world, and it is understandable that we would feel helpless in the face of it all.

But if we really want to know what we can do, we need to identify what we are able to do and get involved. These acts of terror and brutality are not just a problem for the victims; they are an affront to humanity. It is incumbent upon us, all of us, to act, including those who insist that their religion has been hijacked by fanatics and that it has nothing to do with terrorism.

We need to let the victims know that they are not forgotten, and our promise to stand with them must be backed by action. Those who work with organizations like Wellspring International, RZIM’s humanitarian arm, know firsthand how meaningful it is to reach out to those who feel abandoned when their crisis no longer makes the headlines. We need to live up to the conviction many of us claim to hold – that all lives, from Los Angeles to Lagos and from Garissa to Geneva, matter.

Where was God?

This is one question that, predictably and inevitably, comes up when tragedy strikes, and legitimately so. It is most pertinent for those who claim Jesus Christ as the definitive stamp of God’s presence on earth – God in human flesh. The Bible presents us with a God who is all-good and all-powerful. No religious system that does not worship a Being who is thus described faces this particular problem of evil.

But if God is morally perfect, why doesn’t He intervene to stop these types of evil?

One can approach this question in two ways – (1) from an intellectual/logical perspective or (2) from an emotional/experiential perspective. In the face of tragedy, the most vexing issue is not whether or not there is a logical contradiction between believing in a perfect God given the reality of evil. That is actually easier to handle. By creating us as moral beings, God gave us the ability to choose, and with that ability came the possibility of evil.

Our ability to choose is at once God’s most powerful means of conferring dignity upon us as well as a deadly gift. It all depends on how we choose to use the gift. Nevertheless, we need to note that God’s jurisdiction extends beyond this life, and when all is said and done, every human being will be held accountable for his or her actions.

So the intellectual side of the equation is easier to address, and it is not the main issue that troubles us in the face of tragedy. The real problem is the emotional angst one inescapably feels while trying to understand why God would seemingly stand by and watch as these horrendous activities take place.

However, the Gospel message grasps this nettle with unparalleled authority and beauty. This weekend, on Good Friday, Christians remembered the ghastly murder of God’s innocent Son, Jesus Christ, on a Roman cross. The crucifixion was preceded by many hours of unbelievable flogging and humiliation. In the face of this untold horror, Jesus raised this very question with God the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[1]

So, where was God when His Son suffered a slow, excruciating death on the cross? In biblical terms, God made the arrangement for this event before the world began.[2] And about seven hundred years before the crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah wrote,

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”[3]

God knew the choices we would make, and He knew the depth of the evil in the human heart.

A story that has emerged from Garissa offers us a powerful analogy. One of the students, Hellen Titus, told the Kenyan media how she was able to escape from the tragedy as the shooters hovered over her and her fellow students. She covered herself with someone else’s blood and was thereby mistaken for dead. That is exactly what Jesus has done for us; He invites us to be covered with His blood so that we can live. And when we are thus protected, we may grieve, but we do not grieve like those without hope, and we do not fear those who can only kill the body but cannot touch the soul.

So, why doesn’t God intervene in these types of situations? He has.

[1] Matthew 27:46

[2] Revelation 13:8

[3] Isaiah 53:5

By J.M.

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