Comfort in the aftermath of terror
A Christian Science perspective: A resident of Ankara, Turkey, prays after the suicide bomber attack on the US embassy there last week.
Living in Ankara, I’ve been to that embassy many times and know well that checkpoint where a suicide bomber had just killed himself and an embassy guard, and critically injured a former reporter. As I watched the aftermath unfold, I quickly realized that staying glued to the television would not help me or anyone else.
I was so familiar with that security checkpoint, but what I needed most was to become familiar with God and my indestructible relationship to Him – and everyone else’s. This meant that I needed to pray.
Groping for inspiration and comfort, I wondered what ideas people prayed with after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. This train of thought led me to watch an inspirational online lecture recorded on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In the introduction to the lecture, two people who had witnessed the attack told about how they had prayed that day and for months following.
The focus of their prayers had been quite simple. It was this: God is good. They had witnessed the fall of the twin towers, but through their prayers, they were also able to witness the many acts of kindness and goodness that naturally sprang forth from everyone. They noticed that New York City was brimming with love. What became real to them was the fact that to be good is the pure native instinct of each of God’s sons and daughters, and the source of that goodness is God. If God’s goodness and love were present and powerful in prayer following the 9/11 attack, they were still available for me to witness in the wake of this attack, or any other terrorist attack.
As I thought about the current situation, it was easy to ponder the love of the guard who had done his best (good at its finest) and given his life for others. It was easy to witness the selfless love of the first responders and how they helped the injured. All of these acts were divinely impelled – a result of God’s goodness and love for His creation. But how could I see God’s goodness and love when it came to the bomber? “Help me, Father of us all, to see this attacker as You see him, as Your innocent, perfect child” was my heartfelt prayer. In effect, I was asking God to make His good, spiritual creation more real to me than the swirling images of destruction.
Many years ago I had spent all night in prayer trying to find a way to forgive someone for something that was not nearly as evil as this attack. I realized that what I had learned then from deep, soul-searching prayer was applicable here and now: Separate the individual from the act, condemn the hatred, see the good, and move forward with forgiveness. The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, promises in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66).
Whenever we witness an act of terrorism or any act of lesser evil, it’s an opportunity for us to move to a higher level of consciousness, to let the spiritual perspective unfold in thought, revealing God’s goodness and love for everyone, bringing healing to all involved. Even to evildoers.
It’s not surprising that when we pray to see God’s goodness and love all around, we hear good news. The US ambassador to Turkey has announced that the terrorist attack failed in its aims and instead has drawn the United States and Turkey closer “in a common mission of upholding the international rule of law while strengthening our collaboration....” As the Psalmist rejoiced, so can we: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97).