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Where is God when Disaster Strikes? 

In the evening of June 25, 2006 about fifty people of various religious affiliation gathered at the Islamic Center of Northridge, Granada Hills to listen to the panel discussion on the topic, "Where is God when Disaster Strikes? The event was sponsored by Valley Interfaith Council's Interfaith Relations Committee.

The distinguished panel included Manish Sahu (from the Hindu faith), Rabbi Jan Offel, Rev. Wayne Christiansen, Omar Ricci and Munireh Moore (from the Bahai faith).

Qazi Ullah, the Imam of Islamic Center of Northridge gave the welcome address. Imam Qazi said, "Especially after 9/11 we must interfaith with each other so that we all can live in peace and harmony." He quoted the verse
from the Quran, "NOW, INDEED, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam." (Quran 17:70)

Islam considers all human beings as equal irrespective of sex, color or religion. "O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female." (Quran 49:13)

Imam Qazi's message to the audience was, "If an individual or a group does something wrong, no matter whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, we shouldn't be blaming the entire followers of that particular faith." He
concluded his welcome address by stating, "Anybody is welcome to the Islamic Center of Northridge."

The event was moderated by Fr. Bob Bonnet, who invited the panelists to speak in chronological order in which the religions evolved.


Manish Sahu, a Marketing Executive said, "When the disaster strikes, God is in the same place where He is right now. One would ask where to find God now. If we need to contact a person, we try to get his address or phone number. Since we can not  see God, we can contact Him through prayers."

Manish indicated that the Hindu faith believes in one God and God has many names. He concluded his speech stating that during disaster God is in the same place where He is right now comforting and blessing us.


Rabbi Jan Offel, Temple Judea member started her speech with a humor, "When there are two Jews then there are always three opinions".

Rabbi Jan indicated that the book of Job in the Old Testament discusses on the subject where God is when disaster strikes. Job looses his family, material and was inflicted with terrible skin disease and his friends tell
him that he must have done something wrong because of that he is undergoing all these kinds of suffering. Job rejected this notion and calls out to God.

God does not really give Job an answer to his painful question, but speaks about how far God's ways are above our own. Furthermore, Job shows that God continues to hear and respond to our cry.  From this story it is quite evident that when disaster strikes, God is with us.


Rev. Wayne Christiansen said, "Adam and Eve were instructed not to eat fruit from that particular tree but eventually they eat the fruit. God asked if they ate the fruit. Adam replied that if there was no fruit to begin with
then it shouldn't have happened and things like that. When God asked again if they ate the fruit, Adam finally conceded that they ate the fruit due to the peer pressure (satan and serpent)". From this story we need to
understand that we can't keep blaming for our mistakes.

On other occasion as Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. "Teacher," his disciples asked him, "Why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?" Jesus shattered that concept and said, "We are here for the opportunity to heal and not to blame".

Where was God when Jesus was executed on the cross? Did God abandon Jesus as the language in the scripture say? Rev. Christiansen said the answer is not that God fully enters into our suffering, when we (Christians) see Jesus crucified we believe that is God.


Omar Ricci, Chairman of Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) said, "According to Islam, the relation between human and God is, He is the Creator and we are His creation, He is unlimited and we are limited, He is
powerful and we are weak always seeking improvement. He has given human beings the faculty to reason and free will to choose. He is the greatest beyond human perception and we submit to Him not blind, but reasoned

He further explained that the life in this earth is very short, once we die our soul goes to the next life. Allah says in the Quran, "Verily, We have created man into [a life of] pain, toil and trial. (Quran 90:4).

Omar explained that at the time of disaster, God speaks directly to us, "NO CALAMITY can ever befall the earth, and neither your own selves, unless it be [laid down] in Our decree before We bring it into being: verily, all this
is easy for God. [Know this,] so that you may not despair over whatever [good] has escaped you nor exult [unduly] over whatever [good] has come to you: for, God does not love any of those who, out of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner. (Quran 57: 22-23). Life is a package with ups and down and it is how one deals with it. Disaster is not to despair, and not to give into sadness. In Islam, God expects us to move on after the period of

NO CALAMITY can ever befall [man] unless it be by God's leave: hence, whoever believes in God guides his [own] heart [towards this truth]; and God has full knowledge of everything. (Quran 64:11). Muhammad Asad, a
distinuised translator of the Quran in his explanation stresses the idea that conscious belief in God impels man's reason to control and direct his emotions and inclinations in accordance with all that belief implies.


Munireh Moore from the Bahai faith said, 'Whatever happens is due to the will of God."

She recalled the event of Abd al-Baha, the son of Bahai founder Bahullah who chose to come to America on the more modest Cedric of the same line that British passenger steamship Titanic operated. Abd al-Baha had reached Amercia a few days before the Titanic disaster. He remarked that he had traveled as far as Naples with some of those who died in the Titanic disaster. Explaining that in everything there is a divine wisdom, he then
spoke of death as the gate to the other worlds of God and said that the disaster showed both the need for man's technical skill and his ultimate dependence on God. Abd al-Baha's remarks are notable for avoiding both the
most common reactions to the disaster: excessive sentimentality and intemperate criticism of society, the owners, crew, or survivors.


Where is God when disaster strikes?
Abdul Alim, Islamic Voice, August 2006