Friday, 15 October 2010

"The 33"

Not being possessed of a television, the impact of the rescue of the miners in Chile has been somewhat reduced for me. I did catch some live coverage on BBC Radio 4 during the Today and PM programmes, which communicated something of the spirit of the events, but this was not the same as the impact of television pictures. Nonetheless, just how emotionally moving the rescue was did get through to me.

A first thought is about how this rescue constitutes an event of international solidarity. This can be understood in two ways. The first way is to think about the collaboration of countries other than Chile in the provision of expertise and equipment in the rescue mission itself. But the second way, that of the concern and attention of people from all over the world, particularly as the rescue came to its climax, is perhaps the most fundamental sense of the international solidarity. People all over the world have cared about "the 33" and about their successful rescue. Pope Benedict expressed this when he sent blessed rosaries for the miners during their time underground.

A second thought is about how this rescue constitutes a moment of national solidarity in Chile. The whole nation appears to have rallied around in support of the rescue of "the 33". There is a real sense that the presence of the President of Chile as the rescued miners came to the surface was not just the presence of a political leader but the presence of the whole nation. It probably would not occur to anyone in this country, for example, to sing the national anthem in circumstances such as these. But the singing of the national anthem does express something of what it meant for the people of Chile to be a nation at this moment, an experience of tremendous hope that could so easily have been a moment of utter tragedy. This BBC news report conveys something of this.

A third thought that one can have about these events is a thought about the nature of hope. Once the miners had been discovered to be still alive after 17 days trapped underground, one can see the living out of an experience of hope in the sense of a looking forward to a successful outcome, a working towards a successful rescue. One can think about the different ways in which hope was experienced by those trapped underground, by their families and friends, and by those working at the surface to bring about a rescue. And, as the rescue came to a successful conclusion, we can see a fulfilled hope expressed in the celebrations of the rescue. The blogged coverage on the BBC News website expressed it like this:
In the end, a potential tragedy in a remote corner of the world has been utterly transformed into one of the greatest tales of good news ever told.
 But I do not think that this does justice to the phenomenon of hope that we have seen here.

The fourth aspect of these events is their religious aspect. Many of the miners prayed as they were released from the mine. Reports also indicate that they prayed regularly during their time trapped in the mine. This profoundly religious aspect to the events appears to have been quite natural to those involved. To us in Europe it appears rather odd. According to this report, the feeling of the miners was that they were 34 and not 33:
'We were not 33, we were 34 because Jesus Christ was with us down there.'
William Oddie describes the religious aspect of the events in Chile, the vigils, the Masses offered, in this post at the Catholic Herald website.

Perhaps the most interesting point on which to reflect is how this religious aspect of the events in Chile informs the three other aspects I have mentioned. And, in this, there might be a very interesting lesson for secularised Europe.


Francis said...

I think secular Europe might have been more impressed by the religious dimension if divine intervention had saved them not human ingenuity.

Joe said...


I wonder whether, if the question is phrased as human ingenuity versus divine intervention, this is not a case of "both/and" rather than "either/or"?

Francis said...

Hmmm..which bit was the divine intervention?

Anonymous said...

zero says
But Francis,God gives humans ingenuity