Belfast Telegraph

Germanwings crash: Questions we ask after a pilot deliberately crashes

By Alf McCreary

This week's news about the death of 150 people when a co-pilot apparently steered a plane into a mountain at maximum speed scarcely bears thinking about.

Yet it is hard not to ask why such bad things happen to innocent people. We have become so bombarded by violence, and most often through television, that we have become hardened to suffering.

Nevertheless the deaths of the people last Tuesday on an Alpine mountain is truly shocking and separated only in scale by that other dreadful loss of life on 9/11. While the latest tragedy is still fresh in our minds, it is perhaps the time to try to reflect on the realities of life and death.

So often in our society we give thanks at a funeral service for the life of a family member, as I did for a cousin this week, or of a friend or acquaintance.

We are right to do so, but I am also aware of the words of CS Lewis, whose mother died from an illness when he was a boy, despite his prayers for her recovery.

He noted in later life that death is a terrible disaster, and so it is for many of those who are closest to it, and their families.

The response to that death is also varied, from prayers to stunned silence and deep, lasting heartbreak.

All Christians today will pray for the victims of the French air disaster and their families, including the family of the young co-pilot who it has since emerged crashed the plane deliberately. What a terrible cross they will bear.

It was noticeable that before the cause of the crash was known, the town in Germany from which 16 schoolchildren died, hundreds of people attended a service in a local Catholic church. It provided the space and opportunity for them to reflect and to come to terms with their deepest thoughts and heartache.

Perhaps that is the best that the Churches can do at this difficult time.

I don't believe that there are easy answers or pat Biblical quotations to paper over the chasm of doubt and disbelief which are in the minds of many believers, as well as non-believers.

Equally, I do not believe that a loving God decided on Tuesday morning to have innocent people slaughtered on a French mountain, just because He felt like it.

Nor do I want to lock horns with humanists, atheists and others who will point to this loss of life as another example that there actually is no God.

These discussions are for another time, and, as in the past, the people on either side are unlikely to change their minds.

What I am asking myself, and suggesting to others as well, is that we use this time to think deeply beyond the emerging details of the horrific story of the French air disaster, and perhaps reflect more on the fragility of life as well as its beauty, and to use the time left to us to appreciate what a treasure life itself is.

This would be a fitting prelude to the events of Holy Week with its own Biblical story of an innocent person who was lauded by the crowd, then arrested, framed, tortured and put to a slow, ghastly death - followed, amazingly, by a resurrection from the dead.

It may not be a story which resonates with everyone but, after such a dreadful week of suffering in our midst, the Easter story gives all of us cause, more than ever, to pause for thought.

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