Friday, January 29, 2010

A Lament to God for Haiti

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

There is a Via Crucis of suffering with stations that never end in the small and poor country of Haiti. Suffering in the body, the soul, the heart, in the mind assaulted by ghosts of panic and death. There is also much suffering in all human beings who have not lost the basic sense of humanity and solidarity. From this universal compassion comes a mysterious community that overrides the differences, religions, and ideologies that previously separated and divided us. Now only the meaninglessly abused common humanitas, which must be rescued, counts.

With every Haitian who suffers under the rubble or dies of thirst and hunger, we also die a little. After all, we are brothers and sisters of one and the same family. How can we not suffer?

But there is a profound and heartbreaking suffering in people of faith who claim that God is Father and Mother of goodness and love. How do we keep on believing? We ask plaintively: "God, where were you when that earthquake that decimated your poorest and most suffering sons and daughters in the entire Western hemisphere, was formed? Why didn't You intervene? Aren't You the Creator of the Earth with its continents and tectonic plates? Aren't You the Father and Mother of tenderness, especially towards those who, like your Son Jesus, are the unjustly crucified of history? Why?

This silence of God is frightening, because it simply has no answer. As much as geniuses like Job, Buddha, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Leibniz have designed arguments to exempt God and explain suffering, suffering does not disappear nor does tragedy cease to exist. The understanding of suffering does not eliminate suffering, just as hearing recipes does not alleviate hunger.

Jesus Himself was not without anguish and suffering. From high up on the Cross He gave a piercing cry to Heaven, complaining, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?".

We agree with Job when, irritated with his "friends" who wanted to explain the meaning of his suffering to him, he said: "You are no more than charlatans and fake doctors; if you would at least shut up, people would take you for wise men." But we can not shut up. There's too much pain and the night is dark. We need some light.

Yet even without light, we continue to believe with a broken heart, because we are convinced that chaos and tragedy can not have the last word. God is so powerful that He can draw good from evil, we just don't know how. Hopeful, we go with this option that will not let our tears be in vain. We also believe that God can be that which we do not understand. Above reason that wants explanations is the mystery that demands silence and reverence. It hides the secret meaning of all events, including the tragic ones.

I identify with the poem of a great Argentinian writer, Juan Gelman, who lost a child during the military repression:

desde los cielos bájate, he olvidado
las oraciones que me enseñó la abuela,
pobrecita, ella reposa ahora,
no tiene que lavar, limpiar, no tiene que preocuparse andando el día por la ropa,
no tiene que velar la noche, pena y pena,
rezar, pedirte cosas, rezongarte dulcemente.

Desde los cielos bájate, si estás, bájate entonces,
que me muero de hambre en esta esquina,
que no sé de qué sirve haber nacido,
que me miro las manos rechazadas,
que no hay trabajo, no hay,
bájate un poco, contempla
esto que soy, este zapato roto,
esta angustia, este estómago vacío,
esta ciudad sin pan para mis dientes, la fiebre
cavándome la carne,
este dormir así,
bajo la lluvia, castigado por el frío, perseguido
te digo que no entiendo, Padre, bájate,
tócame el alma, mírame
el corazón,
yo no robé, no asesiné, fui niño
y en cambio me golpean y golpean,
te digo que no entiendo, Padre, bájate,
si estás, que busco
resignación en mí y no tengo y voy
a agarrarme la rabia y a afilarla
para pegar y voy
a gritar a sangre en cuello
por que no puedo más, tengo riñones
y soy un hombre,
bájate, ¿qué han hecho
de tu criatura, Padre?
¿un animal furioso
que mastica la piedra de la calle?"

come down from the heavens, I have forgotten
the prayers grandmother taught me,
poor thing, she is resting now,
she doesn't have to wash, to clean, to worry all day long about clothes,
she doesn't have to lie awake at night, sorrow upon sorrow,
praying, asking things of you, grumbling to you softly.

Come down from the heavens, if You are there, come down then,
because I am dying of hunger on this corner,
because I don't know why I was born,
because I look at my rejected hands,
because there is no work, none,
come down a little, contemplate
what I am, this broken shoe,
this anguish, this empty stomach,
this city with no bread for my teeth, fever
hollowing out my flesh,
this sleeping like this,
under the rain, punished by the cold, persecuted
I don't understand, I tell You, Father, come down,
touch my soul,
search my heart,
I did not steal, I did not kill, I was a child
and in return they beat and beat me,
I'm telling you I don't understand, Father, come down,
if You're there, because I'm seeking
to be resigned and am not
and I'm going to grab onto rage and sharpen it
to strike out and I'm going to
let out a blood-curdling scream
because I can't take it anymore,
I have guts and I'm a man.
Come down.
What have they made of Your creature, Father?
A furious animal that chews the stones of the street?"

May the Father come down to the Haitian people with His love.

1 comment:

  1. In the past I participated in other religious or spiritual discussion groups and had given opinions about the why of natural disasters like this which cause so much death and suffering to humans, but it has been awhile since I have stopped to attempt to reason or to understand any possible relation between God and this things, where is God among all that, and the why and the because of this event..
    Now all I do is just reduce the fact to what it is, a natural geological event. People living in places on the planet, which since we now know about plate tectonics, faults and earthquakes, much more that decades ago, humans should not be living over.
    We pray, we send money, etc. But they suffer and die.
    Katrina, the tsunami, now the earthquaque and etc. Dynamics of Earth. Period. If we know better, we’ll build colonies in other locations less prone to these disasters.
    Prayer may save our souls, but science will save our bodies.
    Will we learn?