A plague of locusts has hit near southern Cairo according to a report released today by the Times of Israel. The locust swarm containing an estimated 30 million locusts descended on Giza and was not predicted by agricultural authorities.
Arriving just three weeks before Israel begins to celebrate this year's Passover, and just 8 days before Coptic Christians enter into their Lenten season, it is not unexpected to see many people drawing correlations between the Biblical plagues of Egypt and the current situation, especially given the recent threats made by the Muslim majority in Egypt to the nation of Israel and the devastating impact of Muslim rule on the Coptic Christians who live in Cairo. Although it isn't unusual for locusts to swarm at this time of year as they begin making their way to their breeding grounds, what is unusual is the size of the swarm.
The swarm is actually an offshoot of an even larger swarm currently attacking West Africa, and was blown across the Sahara. Locusts have also been spotted in Lebanon and Crete. The last time a swarm of such large numbers hit the region was in 1954. The locust swarm is causing massive damage to agriculture in the area, Alwatan News reported. Agricultural officials and border guards are currently working to deploy crop dusting planes and take other, unspecified, measures. The swarms have hit Cairo's airport, but the airport is working diligently to ensure that no flights are delayed due to the insect activity.
What may prove more deadly is the response of the people to this infestation. Many are burning car tires in an effort to generate smoke that they hope will ward of the insects, but officials are warning that this will not deter the insects and will most likely result in human injuries or even deaths from it. Agricultural officials expect strong winds to blow the insects toward the Red Sea and into Saudi Arabia over the next few days. These winds usually take the insects past Israel, but Israel remains on alert for possible infestations.
So what is a faithful Catholic to make of this in terms of God's mercy and grace? We can see in it two things: a call to repentance for those who have turned their hearts away from God and a source of hope for those who are relying on God's strength to defeat the overwhelming odds facing them. It isn't that God wants harm to come to Muslims or any one else for that matter, but that He is wise enough to know that sometimes repentance comes when you're stripped of everything and have nowhere else to turn. It's the repentance He wants more than anything else, for a repentant heart can be directed for good and turned from evil.