THE opening up of Eastern Europe and the breakup of the former Soviet Union have been accompanied by a rise in nationalism and territoriality that is alarming. Civil wars have developed in some areas; political battles over which ethnic group will be dominant have become violent in others.
Such ethnic discord isn't limited to actual war. Often, even in countries outside these areas, people of one background are preyed upon by members of other groups. When possible, we can take steps in our individual lives to help break down such separations and the attendant violence. But even if opportunities for direct action aren't available, we can reach out to our world community in prayer.
Each of us will find his or her own way to pray, but one thought that has always helped me is Christ Jesus' teaching that we are all children of one divine Father, God. What this means, according to the Bible, is that each of us is truly spiritual--that is, created by God to express His nature in love, goodness, purity, mercy, intelligence. And since we are all offspring of this one, totally loving Father, it is natural for us to love each other. As Christ Jesus' life and example make clear, God's love e xtends to all, not just a favored few.
In his many travels, the Apostle Paul, that great follower of Christ Jesus, certainly learned of the prejudices and differences among ethnic groups. His letters resound with calls to oneness and unity among the people he was teaching to be Christians. In his letter to the Colossians he tells them to give up anger and malice and to think of themselves in spiritual terms "where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all .
Certainly he was recognizing that the individual human distinctions--if taken too far--could build up a feeling of superiority and separation. Then, instead of appreciating diversity, people could be subject to jealousy and strife. In his letter, he speaks of love for one another and forgiveness. And he adds, "Above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
This charity, or love, enables us to value what is unique in ourselves and others and yet to experience the "bond of perfectness--the unity that comes from loving God and each other. It rests on a spiritual understanding of our inseparability from God and the love for man that is a natural outgrowth of our unity with God, divine Love. It demands that we see each individual as in truth the child of God. This is not to say that we should ignore problems with others or overlook illegal behavior. Rather, we need to affirm that such activity has no grip on the man that God created. And, in fact, that such spiritual understanding can free us--and others--from accepting criminality as a governing characteristic of some particular ethnic group.
As the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy was often asked by the press for her views on events. In an article entitled "How Strife may be Stilled, which is reprinted in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mrs. Eddy speaks of conditions necessary for peace. She writes: "The First Commandment in the Hebrew DecalogueThou shalt have no other gods before meobeyed, is sufficient to still all strife. God is the divine Mind. Hence the sequence: Had all peoples one Min d, peace would reign.
Each of us can pray to have one God, one Mind, and to see our fellow beings as fellow children of this divine Father. As we do this, opportunities to make peace between groups may well arise. We may even find more peace within our families or among our friends. And we will be making a specific and important contribution to world peace.