Depth of Evil Severe Test of Faith: God Hard to Find amid Horror of Yugoslavia

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SPECIAL REPORT

When Capt. John Organ went to the former Yugoslavia in 1994, he carried with him a certain sense of God: God as partner, God as co-worker. He also went with the conviction that he'd be able to do some good there. The reality of the situation he encountered, however, the profound evidence of pure, untainted evil, caused him to question everything. All this, in a conflict, at the heart of which, supposedly, were religious convictions.

"After a while, the God I took with me, I couldn't find anymore," says Organ, an Anglican chaplain now based in Shilo, Manitoba. "I was assuming that God was operating as per normal, but each experience caused me to doubt that. Before our tour was over I'd had a total encounter with evil. We found massacres, and looted graveyards - not even the dead were sacred. This was a war that wasn't fought in trenches, but in villages. People would go in and kill everyone and everything - men, women, children, animals. And they'd rape. There are 5,000 children born to women whose husbands were murdered by the fathers of these children. It was a dark place and, despite the religious symbolism, there was little of God there."

Organ experienced a crisis in faith, a crisis so deep he began to question whether he could remain in the ministry. This wasn't simply a matter of doubting theological doctrine, it involved a complete examination of the nature of good and evil and the very existence of God.

"First of all," says Organ, "the absolute, hard core, human evil made me wonder if God was in any of us. Those people looked normal. In fact, they were just like us. But they were committing the most incredible atrocities. It caused me to lose some of what I thought a human being was all about.

"Also, the faith communities were so locked into hatred of the other they weren't calling people into account for their actions. There was just blind support for their own sides. The church there is extremely faithful and rich in liturgy, but has nothing relevant to say to the local context, no way of challenging the local scene. …