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Chicago UMC Hosts Worship Of Other Gods In The Name Of Tsunami

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Interfaith service sees hope from tsunami

By Margaret Ramirez, Tribune religion reporter

Published January 27, 2005

With Buddhist chants, Muslim teaching and Christian hymns of prayer, dozens of religious leaders gathered Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in the Loop for a solemn interfaith service to mark the 30th day since the tsunami disaster devastated South Asia.

The event, organized by the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and the National Conference for Community and Justice, allowed the area's different religious communities to come together, reflect on the tragedy and interpret its meaning for their faith.

At a news conference before the service, Rev. Paul Rutgers, a Presbyterian minister and executive director of the religious council, said the day marked a transition where "mourning continues, but hope also grows."  In a statement endorsed by 15 different faith communities, Rutgers urged individuals and congregations to contribute financial support and suggested a day of fasting, with the money saved to be given to relief agencies.

Kareem Irfan, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said people should focus not on why the disaster happened but on what they could do to help.

"People ask, 'Where was God during the tsunami?' But the true question to ask is:  'Where is humanity in the aftermath of this disaster?'  Islam teaches us that how we respond to this is the true testament of our faith," Irfan said during the service.

Rabbi Herman Schaalman, of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, noted that the day of remembrance for tsunami victims was held during the same week as the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps in Auschwitz. The fact of human cruelty is now linked with the force and power of human nature, he said.

"To remember is absolutely necessary.  It is the part that has a claim on us.  No one knows this better than we, Jews," Schaalman said.  "We must keep working together.  Someday there will be shalom."

Narmita Dholakia, a Hindu leader with the Chinmaya Mission, used sacred texts to show that natural disasters are not acts revenge on any particular group.

"A fruit has to be destroyed for a new tree to grow from its seed," she said.  "This is the law of nature."

For Amarjit Singh, a leader from Chicago's Sikh community, the tsunami seemed to be "a blessing in disguise," which has helped foster unity among religious groups.

"It seems strange to say this, but I feel it has brought some blessings," Singh said.  "After this horrible event, we are all together here as a family.  This disaster brought us together."


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Where was God during tsunami?

January 27, 2005


Chicago area religious leaders marked the one-month anniversary of Southern Asia's cataclysmic tsunami Wednesday with solemn words of faith, compassion and unity.

Buddhists in saffron-colored robes and turbaned Sikhs sat alongside consuls general from Indonesia, Thailand and Somalia at the hourlong service at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.

The afternoon crowd of 200, which also included Jews, Muslims and Christians, observed a moment of silence to honor the 150,000-plus tsunami victims.

Eleven people representing various countries affected, including India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Tanzania, also lighted candles to reflect on the fragility of human life. The 12th candle or the "candle of hope" was lighted by 9-year-old Joey Da Vidge, an Indonesian American who lost more than a dozen members of his extended family in the disaster.

"Nature is always constructive," said Nirmita Dholakia, of Hinsdale's Hindu Chinmaya Mission.  "Natural calamities create humility instead of hate in the minds of people.  They forget their enmity, accept and accommodate each other.  People go beyond the differences of caste, gender, nationality, color, status and religious identity to comfort or help each other."


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Tsunami raises prophecy questions for Christians

AL.com - Birmingham, AL, USA.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

by GREG GARRISON, News staff writer

Though some Christians might see it as a sign of the end times or a judgment from God, theologians say there are no easy answers behind the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed 150,000 people in Asia.

A lot of people have fallen into the trap of cross-examining God, when they need to examine themselves, said United Methodist Bishop William Willimon.  Every day, tens of thousands of people worldwide die of hunger and go largely ignored, he said.

"Suddenly God gets called to account," Willimon said.  "Maybe we better hope God doesn't call us to account.  It's a wonder God doesn't say to us, 'How can I care about a loving humanity when people starve every day and you do nothing?'  I don't know why God lets us be as cruel and insensitive as we are, yet we get caught up in justifying the ways of God to humanity.  I could imagine the Lord saying, 'I don't need to explain anything to you.  You have a lot of explaining to do to me.'  God gives me the room to not be what he intended me to be.  He gives room to the heavens and earth to not be what they were intended to be."

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