September 11, 2011
During this year it seems to me that the world has experienced an extraordinary number of highly destructive and disruptive natural disasters. As has been the case since World War II, theUnited States has been there to help fulfill the hopes for recovery of many nations and people who suffered with these disasters. Aid in various forms has been provided by the American government, as well as religious and secular non- profit organizations. For most Americans this is not news. It’s what is expected of theUnited States. I believe that most Americans also know that in recent decades the USA has not been alone in these efforts, but also been joined by other nations and the United Nations. Yes, hope is being provided around the world by the generosity of the United States and other nations.
This year, theUnited States has also experienced a lot of natural disasters. What is a surprise to me (Ray), is that a nation, which I suspect many Americans have never heard of, came to the aid of the United States in the aftermath of a recent natural disaster- tornados in the mid-West, specifically in Joplin, Missouri. What really surprised me was that this is a very small nation, with a population of just under 5 million, about the size of the American state of Maine. It is located on the Gulf of Suez, on the Arabian peninsula. It’s an Arab nation in which Islam is the official state religion. I’m talking about The United Arab Emirites (UAE).
I learned of this a few weeks ago through a small newspaper article. The article reported that the UAE was providing a million dollars to the Joplin, Missouri school district to help make it possible for it to fulfill the hope of providing every student with a lap-top computer, starting with the current school year. School officials said that this was a project which had been a district goal for at least three years, and was apparently expecting that it would take even more years to find the funding and implement it. This gift from the UAE made it possible to have their hope fulfilled right now, with the opening of the new school year on August 17.
The article explains that the gift became a reality after UAE officials, based in their embassy in Washington,D.C., read a newspaper story in late June, about the school system’s struggle to carry on, after much of the city of Joplin, including the high school, was destroyed by tornados, on May 22. This disaster resulted in the deaths of 160 people, with hundreds more injured. Despite all this, the students were scheduled to attend school on time in a converted big-box store, with their new computers. The people of Joplin, with help from many places, including the UAE, have endured after the disaster that they experienced.
In the United States the leaders of our government are often so bogged down with bureaucracy and politics, that it sometimes takes years just to decide to do some things that really need to be done, and then even longer to act on urgent matters that concern their own people. In contrast, once theUAE officials identified a need to be fulfilled, they and their little nation took just two months to make a decision and act on it. I think this story is a great example of good news in the midst of bad news. Hope in a situation where it seems there is no reason to have hope.
I suppose some Americans might wonder “what’s the bid deal? After all, the UAE is an oil rich nation which can easily afford to give away a million dollars”. And that’s true. But the article I was reading went on to say that this is not the first time the UAE helped the American people get through the aftermath of a natural disaster. The article mentioned that after Hurricane Katrina devastated the people living on the American gulf coast, especiallyNew Orleans, the UAE donated $100 million to U.S.relief efforts.
I wondered why this small Arab nation, with a majority Muslim population, would bother to support the American people, when earlier this year they were hearing news reports of Americans loudly protesting, and sometimes preventing, the building of Islamic mosques in their towns, as well as a facility in downtown New York City. They were also hearing about an American pastor, who claimed to be a Christian, who planned to hold a Quran burning event. At the same a great number of Americans were still expressing the attitude that all Muslims are potential terrorists. Why should these Muslim Arabs give aid to the American people in New Orleans and Joplin when they could easily have given all of that support to other Arab nations?
Could it be that despite the differences in religious doctrine among Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, people of other religions, and people no religion, that there really is one God? Could it be that this one God speaks to each of us in various ways, so that we become inspired to not just talk about love, but to act in ways that demonstrate love of neighbor? As a Christian, I listen to what Jesus says. He says we should love our neighbor. I also understand Him to say that my neighbor is not just the person living next door to me. Not just the person who is of of my own nationality, race, or religion. My neighbor is anyone – anywhere, anytime – who is in any kind of need, and God gives me the resources and opportunity to help and serve. I understand Him to say that when I do that, that’s love. I believe that applies yo nations as well as individuals. I believe God inspired the UAE to act with love, even to those who think of them as enemies.
I suppose if you really want to know why the leaders of a small Arab Muslim nation would help the people of a giant nation, like the USA, you would have to ask them. As for me, I believe that when nations and their people demonstrate love of neighbor, even though their understanding of God is different than mine, they are inspired by God to do so. Even if they don’t realize that’s what’s happening. I believe God has been, is now, and will always be inspiring all kinds of people in all kinds of places to demonstrate His love to their neighbors. I believe the more we see that happening, the more we will see that there is hope for us as individuals and nations, and for the world. The ultimate hope is that the will and way of God – the way of love – will be established on earth as it is in heaven – eternally. I keep seeing signs that tell me this hope will one day be fulfilled. And for this I thank God.
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.