Bushfires and disaster – a compassionate community

Posted on January 8, 2020

I’m sure that, like me, you have all been shocked by the images and news reports coming out of areas in southern Australia that have been devastated by bushfires in recent weeks. Lives have been lost and many families will never be the same again; homes and businesses have been destroyed; our environment has been devastated. We in south-east Queensland have been spared much of this trauma, yet still we are affected. How should we respond?

Graham Tomlin, the Bishop of Kensington (London), wrote a blog back in 2017, just after the terrible Grenfell Tower inferno which resulted in 72 deaths. He wrote –

In the past couple of days I have often been asked what can you say to those who have lost everything, who have lost dearly-loved ones. My answer? There is very little you can say. There are times when all you can do is pray… Prayer reminds us that there is a God who weeps with those who weep, who hears the cries of the poor and disadvantaged, and while there are many things that happen in God’s world that are not part of his will, in the end, his purposes will one day be fulfilled. We believe in the God of the Resurrection, the God of hope. And today that is what we need – Hope that does not eliminate our shock, our compassion, our pride and our anger, but transcends it, lifts it and makes a future possible.

It is right that we should feel shock and even anger, but I hope that those feelings will quickly be tempered by compassion and pride. I know that I have been very moved by the sacrificial service and compassionate giving – by firefighters, members of the affected community and those from further afield. It does your heart good to see people all around the world responding with such generosity.

Children can find it particularly difficult to process their feelings in times like these. It is quite likely that they could be experiencing fear, grief, anger, hopelessness or anxiety – perhaps without being able to articulate the reasons why. I encourage parents to be alert for any signs that your child(ren) might be struggling to cope at this time. Look for opportunities to discuss their feelings and reassure them.

Perhaps, also, you might consider how you can respond as a family to the needs of those who have been directly impacted by the bushfires. There is something very empowering in being able to give to the needy; we move from feeling helpless to knowing that we have made a difference, even a very small one. And if you’d like to help practically during the bushfire crisis, the ABC has put together a helpful list of ways you can do this.

Similarly, you might pray with your children – for the comfort of the bereaved, for the safety of those who continue to fight the fires, and for soaking rain to extinguish the fires and renew the land.

Lord, have mercy.

Nigel Grant
Executive Director of Faith and Community
St Paul’s School

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