“You can’t stop the squeak by oiling the mouse.” – Chill Wills
Probably everyone has seen the maps of the flight path of Malaysian Airlines MH370. It started from Kuala Lumpur enroute to Beijing and went missing. A few things are clear, but there is not a great deal of information. First of all, security at the Kuala Lumpur Airport (KUL) is, well… casual. Malaysia is an interesting country with many first world capabilities. There is no question that they have the technology and ability to screen for proper IDs from passengers, profile, and gauge questionable behavior, but the last few times I flew through KUL I remember thinking, “This is not very attentive.” I don’t have any problem believing that a couple people could get through KUL security with stolen passports.
What is more indicative of foul play is the plane’s transponder being turned off. The transponder is an encoding device that sends a signal so that the radar image of the plane appears more clearly on air traffic controllers’ radar scopes. There is also a display of telemetry showing things like altitude so the air traffic controller can insure that two planes don’t occupy the same position at the same altitude at the same time. There is absolutely no operational reason to turn off the transponder unless it caught on fire. To share how common that is, I have never even heard of a transponder catching on fire in my forty-five years of piloting and passenger flying. If it had been turned off or failed because of a problem then there would have been radio conversation with the controllers about it. The changes in altitude and course are indicative of intentional diversion. Given what the weather was like, there was no operational reason for those changes.
The airline, government officials (Malaysian Airlines is the “flag carrier” for Malaysia), and the airport security people would probably prefer that the cause be a mechanical problem rather than any other explanation. That way Boeing (who made the plane) can be blamed, and they would not have to take responsibility for any lapses in security.
While it probably seems totally unrelated to this missing plane, in October of 1997 I had a bad fall. Since then I have experienced a lot of pain, especially when I have to sit for a long time, like on international flights. Over the last sixteen years lots of treatments and therapies have been tried but mostly without success and I have had to live with a lot of pain in my hip.
Also seemingly unrelated to MH370, entire villages and small towns are being abandoned in Northern Nigeria due to “ethnic conflict.” There has been such terrible violence and response from security forces has been so lacking, that many people have abandoned everything and left with their families.
Why, you might well ask, would these three things be presented together here? What possible link could there be?
Last year I decided to go on a quest to pursue what could be done to fix my hip. Of course getting rid of the pain meant that a proper diagnosis had to be made. There was some discussion of doing a hip replacement, but the x-rays really didn’t show that as being the problem. Pressing my doctors (by this time I had four talking about the hip pain), I was referred to a new hip specialist who did an extensive exam. He said that he thought that the pain was coming from nerve entrapment (from the fall in ’97) but that he was not the best one to fix it. He referred me to another doctor in Santa Monica, CA. In doing research about the new doctor I found out that he is the number one neurosurgeon for hip pain in the world. He did more testing and confirmed what needed to be done. Last week, he did a 7.5 hour surgery on nerves in three places. As I write this, I’m pain free. Once the proper diagnosis was done, the problem was fixed. Replacing the joint with an artificial one would not have fixed the problem. The proper diagnosis led to the proper treatment, and that has worked.
No amount of investigation about the weather or the mechanical condition of the Malaysian Airlines plane will yield the truth if that is not the problem. From where I sit, it seems to me that there was a hijacking, either by passengers on the plane or a choice by the pilot(s) to fly somewhere else. Now that possibility is finally being examined, lots of information is surfacing. It may be that investigating a pilot with radical politics will yield answers. Perhaps examination of lax security will yield answers, but it appears that radicalism is at the heart of the situation either way. Now as that is investigated, there are all kinds of tidbits of information surfacing. I suspect that not just radicalism, but probably Islamic radicalism, will emerge as the cause. At least it is now being examined.
In Northern Nigeria, no amount of inquiry into “ethnic conflict” will produce answers. It is not an “ethnic conflict.” It is jihad by radical Muslims against Christians. It is Christians who are being attacked and killed. It is the homes and businesses of Christians that are being burned. It is Christians who are having to flee to preserve their lives. It is not tribal, it is not ethnic, it is not economic, it is a spiritual war. It has to be addressed for what it is if there is going to be any answer.
So…what are we to do?
We need to remember that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:10) We need to cultivate our relationship with the Lord through worship and time in the Word of God. We also need to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit by being obedient to what the Lord requires and commands us to do. Spiritual warfare is advanced by people who are devoted in their relationship with the Lord, willing to be meticulously obedient, and willing to sacrifice to do what He calls us to do. We must be indelibly committed to walking in love, going and doing what the Lord calls us to do. We also need to trust that a cadre of Christians who are deeply committed to loving obedience and sacrificial service will make a difference in the world. None of us can do everything, but each of us has a part to play in the plan of the Master.
If the Church is filled with indelibly discipled people, then outreach and mission projects will be of sufficient breadth and depth to reach people and change lives in places that are cauldrons that are currently bubbling up radicals. Faithfully discipled business leaders will pursue projects that bear righteous witness to the Good News and generate resources for “every good work.” You or I specifically may not address a particular stress point, but if it is important, then the Lord will call someone to address it. Committed disciples in government will help shape policies that will cause righteousness to spread across the earth. In every sphere of society, committed Christians can make a difference.
It may be hard to believe that discipleship and mission could be the answer, but nothing else has worked. On top of that, we can have a lot of confidence that pursuing the Kingdom of God will help. Scripture is clear that we are called to reach out. Having the right diagnosis makes all the difference in pursuing the right treatment and actually making progress.
Bishop Bill Atwood is Bishop of the International Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America.