SOUTH ASIA: Tsunamis and the passing of our brothers and sisters
Dr. Frank Kaufmann «View Bio

Our family has suffered a terrible blow, this time in Southeast Asia and stretching right the way across to Somalia on Africa’s eastern coast. Confirmed deaths exceed 124,000 with 1,000s still unaccounted for, and millions remain homeless.

Reports are of a frantic race to save millions of survivors from dehydration and disease and stop the terrifying death count from climbing further.

On the humanitarian side we have responded well. Aid for Tsunami relief has already topped 2 billion dollars making this the biggest relief effort in history. Japan so far is the biggest donor having pledged 500 million dollars; the United States has offered 350 million dollars so far. Even so circumstances and disorganization are creating obstacles for the safe delivery of relief.

Governments, the United Nations, and relief agencies from civil society have exhibited remarkable rapidity of response, sadly however, the religious world has not manifest a similar degree of coordination to provide our human family with guidelines for the religious and spiritual response to so great a change in the human landscape.

Massive numbers are transitioning from temporal life to eternal life in the spiritual world. Furthermore the passing of so huge a number occurred all at once. This is a shock. It has significant impact on the human family. Religions together should guide us through times of such intense impact on our consciousness as God's human family.

Already millions are becoming experts on sub-oceanic geology, but how many have learned more clearly about life and death?

Two communities are affected most by the passing and transition from temporal life to eternal life; those who find themselves forced to deal with eternal life suddenly and without time to prepare, and those who lost loved ones; parents, children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters. We of the global family have as much responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in spiritual need as we do to care for them physically.

Surely in a disaster of this magnitude brothers and sisters from every faith have been lost to us. Is there guidance which speaks universally, across all traditions? How are we as a family to care for our brothers and sisters who are starting their new life in the spiritual world? How are we to care for those who similarly must make a radically new start in life, rebuilding life suddenly without precious, loved ones?

There is guidance from the world’s religions for times such as these. At this moment we call for a world-wide time of prayer, repentance, and reflection. Every person should look to the wisdom of their respective traditions, but as we pray, as we beseech the loving God to help us all in the face of this shocking event, let us pray as one.

The Muslim upon hearing that anyone has lost his or her life is required to recite the short statement, "from Almighty God we come and to Him is our return." The Holy Quran 41.30-31 reminds us that "Those who have said, "Our Lord is God," then have gone straight, upon them the angels descend, saying, "Fear not, neither sorrow; rejoice in Paradise that you were promised. We are your friends in the present life and in the world to come; therein you shall have all that your souls desire..." and with perfect clarity insists "Do not say, "They are dead!" about anyone who is killed for God's sake. Rather they are living, even though you do not notice it." (Qur'an 2.154)

Catholic Christians are guided to pray, "Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."

Jews and Christians know from Ecclesiastes 12.7 "The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it". In the New Testament, Christians are reminded to be, "always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 4.16-5.10)

Unification followers of Reverend Moon from the youngest to the oldest recite a solemn promise to God each day "Our family, centered on true love, pledges to strive daily for greater unity between the spiritual world and the physical world."

The I Ching, in the Great Commentary 1.4.2 reminds us "Birth and death form one recurring cycle, like the alternation of the seasons. Spirit comes from the invisible realms to the visible, then returns to the invisible realms again."

Hinduism says, "As a man passes from dream to wakefulness, so does he pass at death from this life to the next." (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.11-14, 35).

Buddhists have peace in the knowledge that "Man's real nature is primarily spiritual life, which weaves its threads of mind to build a cocoon of flesh, encloses its own soul in the cocoon, And, for the first time, the spirit becomes flesh. Understand this clearly: The cocoon is not the silkworm; In the same way, the physical body is not man but merely man's cocoon. Just as the silkworm will break out of its cocoon and fly free, So, too, will man break out of his body-cocoon and ascend to the spiritual world when his time is come. Never think that the death of the physical body is the death of man. Since man is life, he will never know death. (Seicho-no-ie. Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines.)

The list, and the teaching of the living God is abundantly to be found in every tradition. Please let us pray, as one human family, for the living, and for those who have moved on to the spiritual world. We must be serious, faithful, and caring at times like this.

Dr. Kaufmann is the Director of the Office for Interreligious Relations of the Interreligious and Internatioal Federation for World Peace.

Contact www.iifwp.org, world_prayer@myway.com