Whatever political or intellectual reasons have been given for the current turmoil in Gaza – and there are many described in the Monitor's article "Gaza: Why Israel and Hamas are trading rocket fire" (Dec. 29) – a chief reason for them all is fear.
Fear argues that there are quick solutions, surer and faster than the hard work of making peace by trying to unknot the knotty questions, developing respect by gaining a true understanding of one another. Fear sometimes tempts people into harassing opponents, into picking away, striving to get a reaction.
But fear is not a solution, nor can actions driven by fear lead to permanent peace – at the international or even the individual level. In the end, permanent peace can come about only through a profound mental shift, a change in thought about the parties involved. It's actually a spiritual change that leads one to see things forever differently.
In an article titled "How strife may be stilled," Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "The First Commandment … 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me' – obeyed, is sufficient to still all strife. God is the divine Mind. Hence the sequence: Had all peoples one Mind, peace would reign" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 279).
Our prayers for peace in the Middle East may first need to remove from our own thoughts the stereotyped view of these countries as always at war and any prejudices for or against them that have developed over the years of conflict. It's important to declare in prayer that lasting peace is possible, that the one Mind, God, can reveal an answer that will bring all parties together.
Prayer that declares the oneness of God and His goodness is essential. Other gods, such as fear, hatred, revenge, and distrust, may seem to drive the decisions of nations. These argue that the only answer is to destroy one's enemy, that "this world isn't big enough for both of us." They are merciless in outlook and can lead only to destruction.
But these false gods have no standing before the one infinite Mind, who is Love, and who is the source of all intelligence, wisdom, and peace. Mind is the Creator, not the destroyer. Mind unites; it does not divide. Mind heals; it does not wound. There is no conflict in Mind, because Mind loves all of its children, or ideas. While Mind doesn't perceive its creation in terms of political boundaries or individual nations, each of its spiritual ideas has a right to exist because each one has a perfect purpose. Our prayers can recognize this spiritual fact for all parties involved and can affirm not just their place in God's love but also their ability to respond to His love. This response to Love will bring about the change of heart that leads to unity where division seems to hold sway.
For these prayers to move beyond the theoretical, we need to put them into practice in our own hearts and lives. As we can accept that divine Love is a reality, and that we are all Love's children, we begin to see our world with the eyes of Love. We can see all people, including those we dislike or even call enemies, with those eyes.
This work isn't always quick or easy. But God will sustain us in it. As the writer of the second letter to the Christians at Corinth put it, "Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (II Cor. 13:11).
Our prayers for oneness of mind in finding true solutions in Gaza and for oneness in our own lives will all work together to allow each of us to live in peace and to know the "God of love and peace" as a daily reality in our lives.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid. John 14:27