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A story of hope and faith

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Fri, Oct 15, 2010

The Atacama desert in South America is a barren stretch of land, though rich in mineral content. On this basis, a mining industry has grown, which has helped to fuel the industrial and economic development of countries in the Andean region such as Chile.{{more}}

But this wealth-creation has taken a heavy toll in human suffering, with the miners who have to extract the mineral riches from the bowels of the earth being the biggest casualties. Many lives have been lost and families torn asunder, so as to enrich those who lay claim to the ownership of these mines. So it was in colonial times, so it continues today, though with many improvements brought about through the struggles of the miners, their families and the labour organizations forged in the process.

In the Copiapo region of Chile, a drama which has been unfolding since early August reached its climax the evening of October 12, 2010, with the incredible rescue of the first of the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine since a shaft collapsed on August 5.

Not even the most talented fiction writer could have scripted a better score – miners lost to the world for more than two weeks, then contact established, and the long, painstaking two-month ordeal to rescue them. In the process, this became not just a Chilean incident, but the whole world was dragged in, courtesy modern telecommunication. The rescue was witnessed live via satellite television in Bhutan as in Brussels, in Ouagadougou as in Carriacou, in Vermont, USA, as in the Vermont valley, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

When that mine shaft collapsed more than 70 days ago, all hope had virtually been lost for these miners. It was thought they had gone the way of tens of thousands of others in China, South Africa, the Appalachians or in Eastern Europe, victims of the greed of mine-owners and their willingness to sacrifice health and safety standards and environmental preservation for the sake of profits.

The first contact with the miners after more than a fortnight sparked rays of hope. Those rays of hope have now swollen to the brightness of joy as families and relatives welcome the long-lost ones.

The rescue effort has also taught a lesson of faith, for it took unending faith on the part of all those involved to bring about success. It represented faith in the traditional sense of faith in God, a faith all the more required, given the many tragedies in mining disasters over the years, which could understandably have occasioned skepticism. But it also took faith in modern technology to be able to pull off this modern-day miracle. One also had to put trust in the knowledge and skills of the engineers. The combination of faith in the unseen and trust in man made the impossible not only possible, but practicable.

These are lessons worth absorbing from this intriguing ordeal of three-score-and-ten days, lessons of how hope and faith can help to spur success. They are applicable not only to the avoidance of what could have become a major tragedy, as to the avoidance of the many pitfalls in everyday life. Those lessons should not be lost on us.

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