The pictures sprinkle themselves through my day – a Dutch picture book, a souvenir t shirt, a curved piece of fuselage, sunflowers in a paddock, a figure in army fatigues cradling a gun, more bits of metal, a red slipper, embroidered and jewelled, a wheat field speckled with makeshift white flags, a stuffed toy monkey.
Reluctantly I watch the evening news with its stories of heartbreak, loss, anger and blame. I force myself to read an article or two about the political ramifications surrounding this tragedy. I don’t want all this grief rubbing up against my cosily secure life, shattering my illusions that careful planning can control the future. I don’t want to look at the brokenness of the world. I don’t want to let other people’s pain rub little raw spots into my heart.
But all the time I keep remembering the 80 children who were passengers on the MH17. Six miles above Ukraine’s summer crops, their dreams and fears were shattered, left lying in pieces among the debris. My head knows that life is always fragile and uncertain, but my heart wants every child born into the world free to experience its newness and wonder as they gradually grow into adulthood.
That didn’t happen for the children on MH17 and it’s not happening in places such as the Gaza Strip or the Sudan either. Every night overseas journalists focus their camera and my eyes on the faces of Palestinian women and children trudging, sometimes running, to what they hope will be safety. I see pictures of children lying silent in hospital beds, their faces peppered with shrapnel wounds. Why has a child’s right to a hot meal and a bed time story been replaced by the whine of rockets and exploding houses? A world away in South- Sudan, how is it that hunger is robbing children of laughter?
It’s so often children who get caught up in the consequences of adult sinful behaviour. Too many countries have Governments run by power hungry men, destroying homes and livelihoods in the name of justice, denying education to girls and women. Multi-national companies eager to present their stockholders with fat dividends stockpile foods and medicines, while children die of starvation and preventable diseases. Families poison their children’s minds with stories of feuds that should have been resolved centuries ago.
Evil stares us in the face and we feel as powerless as a newborn baby. And all the time God is silent. That’s the really difficult thing about God – the silence. It’s like God stepped back from being God when adults were gifted with the passing on of love – God’s love with skin on. God trusts us with children and children put their trust in us. But sometimes that all goes horribly wrong. What we feel is beyond language and understanding. We grieve, and we forget that our silent God grieves with us.