VANIMO, PAPUA NEW GUINEA—In His first official statement since the July 17 tsunami that claimed the lives of an estimated 3,000 Papua New Guineans, the Lord announced Monday that He killed the island villagers as part of His longtime "moving in mysterious ways" policy, calling the natural disaster "part of My unknowable, divine plan for mankind."

The aftermath of the recent tidal wave in Papua New Guinea.

"Though the need for such a tidal wave is incomprehensible to you mortals, flawed as you are by sin, I can assure you that I had a very good reason for what I did," God said of the disaster, whose death toll is expected to climb to 5,000 once the effects of disease, starvation and marauding crocodiles become known. "Trust me."

Yahweh, whose unknowable purposes have necessitated, among other things, the death of 40 million Europeans from the Bubonic Plague, 40,000 Peruvians in a 1868 earthquake, and six million of His chosen people in Nazi concentration camps, said he was "not unmoved" by the suffering of the Papua New Guinea flood victims.

"Of course I hear their prayers," God said. "I see every sparrow that falls. But it is My will that these prayers not be answered, and that life continues to be nasty, brutish and short for the majority of mankind. And My reasons are not yours to question."

Added God: "Where were you when I created the Heavens and the Earth?"

World religious leaders are standing behind the Lord. "We must not presume to know the mind of our Creator," Rev. Billy Graham said. "We are, as He often reminds us, His flock, and He is our shepherd. It seems clear that the people who are criticizing Him for killing the Papua New Guineans have not fully considered the theological implications of the shepherd-sheep relationship."

God is standing firmly behind His act.

"I honestly do not know why He wanted those people dead," Pope John Paul II said, "but I have full faith in the wisdom and justice of His acts."

Despite top religious leaders' reluctance to speculate on the Lord's motive in the killings, many contend it was an act of heathen-smiting.

"I would never presume to understand God's plan, but it seems like more than a coincidence that these typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes always seem to hit non-Christian countries like India and Bangladesh," said Matthew Ellsworth, pastor for Holy Name Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. When was the last time a tidal wave devastated France?"

Though a majority of those who perished in the tsunami were non-Christians, God did kill several hundred of His followers.

"I must have faith that the Lord will help me," said Aitape Bulolo, a Protestant fisherman who spent 11 days clinging to the top of a tree while waiting for flood waters to recede and watching the hogs he raised feed upon the corpses of his family. "I know my wife and daughters are with Him now in Heaven, and that He is sparing me for some greater purpose. This horrible tragedy has only strengthened my faith. God is love."

Upon hearing Bulolo's words, God said, "I can neither confirm nor deny rumors of Aitape Bulolo's family's presence in My heavenly kingdom. Be content that it is one of the many mysteries of faith, and that I am always watching over you, albeit for my own unfathomable purposes."

"And believe Me," God added, "never in a million years would you guess what those purposes are."