By Augustine Bahemuka, Commentator on issues of peace and society, abahemuka@outlook.com

Augustine BahemukaIt is Lenten period for Christians around the world. This is a special preparatory period during which believers are invited to grow and deepen their relationship with God. Among the recommended spiritual practices designed for spiritual growth are prayer, fasting, reflection and meditation. In one of the recent editions of Sunday Monitor, Musaazi Namiti raised contentious knife-edge questions about God’s relevance in human affairs, especially during war and conflict in his article “Wars illustrate how God is irrelevant in human affairs”.

I found no better period to express such mind-provoking thoughts than during Lenten period, especially for Christians who wish to deepen their understanding of God. Namiti contends that God is not concerned about human suffering, particularly during war and conflict; and is even astonished by those who appeal to divine intervention to find solutions in such difficult times. In my opinion, Namiti raises an existential question: where is God during war and conflict?

Far from 2nd Century Christian apologetics, this article does not serve to respond to this question as such, but rather, as Namiti appealed to us in his piece, is meant to provoke “discerning readers to reflect deeply and soberly” on their faith and belief. The Good Book reveals to us that the harsh reality of human suffering and conflict in the world are consequences of human disobedience against God, who created man and woman as free beings. However, we are not completely doomed as God, out of his mercy, has continued to shield humankind from the perils of life albeit so subtly that the reality of evil around us ‘seems’ to overshadow his works.

We read in the Good Book that when God created the universe, everything was good, and in perfect paradise. In his wisdom, he crafted and designed the universe and all that occupied it from nothing. What ingenuity! According to this tradition, humankind was the most intelligent of all creatures as man and woman were created in God’s image. However, this all changed when man and woman disobeyed the Creator by eating from the forbidden tree. The Fall, as it is known in Catholic theology, completely disrupted the Creator’s original plan for humankind, and even more corrupted relationship between God, humankind, and the rest of creation. 

This episode, as narrated in the Good Book, was followed by punishment of the serpent whereas for humankind, it was the consequences of their actions: sorrow, pain, toil, suffering and eventually, death. From this narrative, we can see the onset of tensions and conflicts experienced in our society, including our environment, which also reflects how disrupted humanity became thereafter.

Let’s ponder on how humanity got here. God created man and woman as intelligent free beings: intelligent to distinguish good from evil and freedom to choose to do good. However, the gift of freedom is intimately related to responsibility. In other words, if we choose evil over good, then we should be ready to face the consequences. How then do we discern good and evil, in a world that is already filled with much evil forces – pain, suffering, sorrow, hunger, etc. We can do this by examining our conscience – which can be defined as that inner moral sense of right and wrong.

On one of the occasions of his General Audience, Pope Francis appealed to politicians “to make a serious examination of conscience before God about their actions” regarding the Ukrainian crisis. This was an exhortation to actors from all ends of the political divide to discern the consequences of their selfish actions, especially in the wake of loss of human lives, destruction of property and disruption of society.   

Where then is God in times of war and conflict? Why is it that there seems to be no tangible evidence of his miraculous presence, as Namiti would wish to see? I will not take God’s place to speak for him. However, I believe that God is there in the deep silence of our conscience. In this regard, I would then slightly deviate from Namiti’s main focus from God to humankind and ask: to what extent does human responsibility account for war and conflict, given that we are beings who act freely, and hence are responsible for our actions, and inactions?