Friday, 9 April 2010



Two stories of intense human interest are dominating the headlines in this part of the world at present, the one concerns the fate of two baby boys who were born conjoined at the hip and the other , the fatal stabbing of a 15 year old Nigerian boy in Dublin..The twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf from Cork underwent 14 hours of surgery at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, and it seems so far that the delicate operation has been a success. “ The sun is shining today for our two little fighters, who have won the battle for their lives .Words cannot express the relief and love we feel for our two boys. “, the boys’ parents Angie and Azzidene Benhaffaf said in a statement this afternoon. Meanwhile at Newcastle cemetery in County Dublin the mortal remains of Toyosi Shitta-bey was laid to rest after a funeral conducted according to Islamic rites . In accordance with Islamic practise the parents were not present at the internment.
Could these two events be more starkly different leaving in their wake equal measures of joy and sadness for those involved. Two little lives nurtured and carefully preserved at he hands of skillful surgeons and another young life snuffed out at the hands of a cold blooded killer. Surely this is the best of times and the worst of times in the sea-saw roll of life, for some the dawn of a new and bright day and for others the cold cry of loss at the midnight hour. The ancient words from the book of Ecclesiastes seem so appropriate here

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

As well as emphasising the variable nature of our shared experience these two stories also show the noblest and the basest elements of human nature. Hands that heal and hands that kill, out of the same well springs both sweet and bitter water. What is it in the heart of a man or woman that can inspire such heights of inspiration or incite to such gross depths of evil ? The Bible says that while were made in the Divine image and purposed for greatness, when sin and moral disobedience crept in our eternal destiny took a nose-dive. So we are left in this schizophrenic state of aspiring to greatness while constantly falling short even of our own ‘standards’ never mind the law of God. Paul the great Apostle of the Christian gospel knew that dilemma well and expressed it thus “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:18-19 )
His problem is ours, how can such warring desires and emotions rage within appearing to make us powerless against our lower instincts ? The healing skills that have given a new life to the Benhaffaf twins and the violent attack that took the life of 15 year old Toyosi represent both the ability and the inability of the human spirit to live in accordance with its higher calling. In truth many of us to a lesser degree like Paul have these inner conflicts day in, day out with no end in sight. Paul's experience causes him to call out “ Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? ” ( Romans 7:24 ) and he straight away answers his own question “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. ” (Romans 7:25 ) Jesus allowed himself to be scape-goated for our sins when He died on the cross, and as we confess our wrongdoing to Him He alone can set us free.
The parents of Hassan and Hussien acknowledged the influence of both the human endeavour and the Divine grace in their statement after the surgery, “Words cannot express the relief and love we feel for our two boys. We thank God, we thank the surgeons and the gifted team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and we thank from the bottom of our hearts the Irish nation and everyone who prayed for our beloved twins," In these troubling times we need the best of human endeavour and the goodness of God’s grace to steer us through our own personal storms and enable us to know Him as Saviour and Lord.

Gerard O'Shea

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