Where were you when...?
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN...? It is an oft-asked question of disasters and tragedies that resound far and wide.
A common one: Where were you that day in November 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Easy for me: I was not yet born.
And where were you on August 31, 1997, when Princess Diana died in that horrific car crash in Paris? Well, I was at a retreat with the Fellowship of Christian Unions, having just celebrated hours earlier with a more intimate Diana, my youngest sister, who had just wedded.
Where were you in August, 1998, when Al Qaeda bombed the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (the Kampala one surviving, intelligence sources say, by dint of a guard who would not allow a strange truck to park on Parliament Avenue)? I was on Parliament Avenue, securing a visa from the British High Commission that was sharing premises with the American mission.
Where were you on Boxing Day, 2005, when the Asian Tsunami took hundreds of thousands of lives? Where were you when Al Shabaab detonated suicide bombs at Kyaddondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village on World Cup final day, 11 July 2010?
And the question everyone was asking this week: Where were you, on 11 September 2001, when Al Qaeda flew hijacked planes into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington? I was in the newsroom at the New Vision, watching it all live, and dumb and struck, as dumbstruck would define a sober human being.
As we marked the tenth anniversary of the attacks on America on Sunday, I happened to be the preacher at a church in Kampala.
Again, it happened that the key Bible reading for the day was questioning why there is so much evil in the world, with the writer, the Prophet Habakkuk, complaining that God “did not listen” (chapter 1, verse 2).
The book of Habbakuk ("Kaabakuuku" in the Luganda-language service I gave) is unique in that, while most of the books in the Bible are God’s Word to man, this one consists a lot of man’s word to the Lord. The prophet’s complaints read like yesterday’s newspaper letter’s page, or like citizens’ views when lobbying Parliament:
“Violence is everywhere! Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence...there is strife, and conflict abounds. The law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. The wicked outnumber the righteous, so that justice is perverted”.