RECENTLY The New York Times published an article about the South African black township of Shongweni where there has been peace for fourteen months. The fledgling peace has come after more than a year of violence and fighting. Brotherly love, patience, and courage were all part of the solution for Shongweni, as the title of the article indicates: ``Into the Valley of Death, Good Will Brings Peace.'' How is it that goodwill can change people's attitudes and intentions, calm the atmosphere, and point a community toward peace? Maybe it is hard to pinpoint all the ways that goodwill and respect act within a group of people, but one resident of Shongweni seems to have caught the essence of what happened. When asked what stopped the bloodshed, he replied, the Times reported, ```It is difficult to say what ended it.... I sincerely believe it was God.'''
It is right to connect peace with God. The Bible calls God the God of peace. The Apostle Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, ``Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.'' When goodwill enters into negotiations, something of the divine nature is present. We are seeing the effect of God's peace on human conduct.
If we wish to become peacemakers in our town or city, a close familiarity with God as infinite, ever-present Love -- and man as the expression of that Love -- is the strongest contribution we can make to the peace process. Amity and peace originate in divine Love, God. Man, as God has created him, is the spiritual reflection of Love. Every indication of love and brotherliness is evidence of the true spiritual nature of God's man. Violence and fear are the opposite of Love, God, and we should begin to qu estion whether fighting can be truly legitimate.
This is an important step in resolving conflict -- to refuse to admit that evil is necessary or inevitable. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, counsels in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good. God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man.'' When we resolve not to let anything disrupt our efforts toward peace and recon ciliation, we are taking a stand against the continuation of evil. And our efforts are supported by the spiritual reality that there is no evil to oppose the supremacy of God, good.
Our task as peacemakers is to gain a more spiritual view of our community and its people. Prayer gives us this spiritual view of God and His creation. Our prayer may start out as a simple desire to help. As we commune with God our prayer deepens. The inspiration we get might include the impulse to see a so-called enemy in a better light. Prayer can also inspire us to treat conflicting parties with equal fairness. It can bring to light new solutions to old problems and conflicts.
What happens in the community when people are praying? We all feel and experience the benefits. People felt the benefits of Christ Jesus' fidelity to God and his rejection of evil. Jesus' vision was so clear, and the light of his knowledge of God so bright, that it touched multitudes of people with an immediate, practical perception of God's power and love.
There isn't a neighborhood anywhere that wouldn't benefit from the prayers of its residents. What begins as one individual's desire to bring peace can grow to include the whole town. The story of Shongweni is a story that can be repeated. It can start with our own prayers for our own townships.