Haiti and Afghanistan: Twin tragedies demonstrate mystery of original sin

By Michael Sean Winters, 22 August 2021
Image: Mohammad Rahmani/Unsplash


“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” sings the psalmist. “And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:19). This weekend, the Lord was busy being close and saving.

On Saturday morning, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck western Haiti, a country mired in poverty and engulfed in political turmoil after the recent assassination of the nation’s president. The death toll surged past 1,400 and was sure to climb. By Tuesday morning, Tropical Depression Grace was dumping heavy rains on Haiti, further imperiling rescue efforts and spreading additional suffering.

As the United States prepared to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, and offering safe harbor to those Afghans who helped our troops, provincial capitals throughout the country were surrendering without a fight. By Sunday morning, the Taliban were in Kabul. By Monday, U.S. forces controlled about half of the airport and that was all.

The two disasters this weekend, of course, are vastly different. Natural disasters are a variety of ontic evil, and whatever moral responsibility exists rests with those who have abetted Haiti’s poverty and therefore made it almost uniquely ill-suited to cope with a natural calamity.

If you doubt the Catholic Church’s doctrine of original sin, you have only to look at the past 20 years. There have never been good options in confronting Islamic terrorism. Soldiers for whom martyrdom is a desirable goal will always have an advantage over soldiers who desire to go home to their children when their deployment is done. Fanaticism, when it turns violent, demands a violent response, but violence usually exacerbates fanaticism and almost never denudes it, let alone defeats it.

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Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.

With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


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