Peacebuilding efforts anyone can make

A Christian Science perspective: Our ability to love those who are different demands that we take the risk of putting our interests aside, at least for a time, to work to understand and appreciate the deeply held beliefs of others.

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Looking into the faces of the protesters in Egypt as they stood courageously, wavered anxiously, and celebrated victoriously, much of the world was with them. Watching the devastation after the earthquake and tsunami, people throughout the world were deeply moved by their Japanese neighbors’ plight, and embraced them with their love and prayers. Instant global communication has given us a smaller world, where what is going on in one place touches the lives of us all.

Through the Internet, strangers become neighbors. The diversity in the world coming right into our homes can enrich our lives. Or it can be a source of anxiety and concern – depending on how we view our global neighbors, who speak differently, worship differently, and even think somewhat differently about what is dearest to the heart.

The Bible and other holy scriptures urge us to love one another. Peacebuilding demands that we move beyond hatred or indifference. If we are to help bring peace to our world, we need to do more than tolerate those who think and worship differently. We need to nurture a deeply felt, sincere respect for each one as a precious child of God. How do we set aside prejudices and learn to love others as brothers and sisters of our one universal Parent?

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Christ Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). He also taught us to love our enemies, and those who would exploit or abuse us – one of the hardest sayings of Jesus to take to heart and do. But it is the secret to peace. Ask Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Nelson Mandela. It first brings peace to our own consciousness. Jesus did not teach us to love others because they deserve it, but because it connects us to the greatest power, God, who is divine Love. As divine Love blesses us all, it dissolves fear by putting us all in that safe place of God’s all-encompassing love.

Our ability to love those who are different demands that we take the risk of putting our interests aside, at least for a time, to work to understand and appreciate the deeply held beliefs of others. And then work to blend our interests together. I’ve been inspired by the United Religions Initiative, which in 11 short years has become a significant voice for peacebuilding in the interfaith world. With over 500 interfaith Cooperation Circles around the earth, it is dedicated to, and is now experienced in, what it takes to build peace. Its charter affirms: “We value voices that respect others, and believe that sharing our values and wisdom can lead us to act for the good of all. We believe that our religious, spiritual lives, rather than dividing us, guide us to build community and respect for one another.”

Making the effort to love our global neighbors demands an unselfish, spiritual view of humanity – which means seeing each one, including oneself, as divine Love sees us all. A statement by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, speaks to me of peacebuilding. In the spirit of the adage “Know thyself,” she wrote: “Cleanse every stain from this wanderer’s soiled garments, wipe the dust from his feet and the tears from his eyes, that you may behold the real man, the fellow-saint of a holy household” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” p. 86).

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