A PEACE group in a city tormented by bombings, arson, sniper fire, and hatred had asked me, a visiting journalist, to join their discussions. My reaction was part interest, part dismay. The troubles were alarming, but I wondered what I could possibly contribute that had not already been considered. This turmoil had gone on and on for years.
Those who gathered secretly that afternoon--secretly, because even talk about peace, let alone action, needed special protecting--included two clergymen, a social worker, two mothers, and a university professor.
There was little discussion of plans for negotiation or mediation, and our sharing moved quickly to a level more personal than civic. We spoke of the longing for individual hearts to change. In the absence of individual reformation, we saw little hope for the collective condition. Someone mentioned the New Testament's ministry to lives in conflict, and we began to look more and more deeply into a religious answer.
We noted there was mention of Christ Jesus' praise for peacemakers: ``They shall be called the children of God.'' 1 And there was the Psalmist's assurances of safety from ``the terror by night'' and from ``the arrow that flieth by day.'' 2
We talked about prayer as the discipline that most powerfully shifts thought, and thus life, away from fear and danger. After about two hours we thanked each other for the honesty of the convictions offered and agreed that we felt modestly uplifted simply by the brotherly love expressed. We went on about our respective assignments.
For me, however, the experience did not end so simply. Even today, fourteen years later, that community's anguish is still far from over. It is as though by accepting that original invitation to invest practical spiritual insight in the cause of peace, a kind of contract had begun to be written in my conscience. The contract called for confronting conflict of any kind with the Master's summons to face it as he would have done--with healing prayer.
In these days of terrorism in many parts of the world, with superpowers discussing arms control, and hatred manifest so widely in society, the need for peacemakers is great. And the opportunity for individual effort is unlimited.
``Follow that which is good,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. And she says a bit later, ``Peace is the promise and reward of rightness.'' She continues on the next page: ``The First Commandment in the Hebrew Decalogue--`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.'' 3
It is our true nature to be conscious only of the leadings of divine Mind, because man is the very offspring of God. The Master is quite explicit about this and tells us to pray with complete confidence, ``Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.'' And he directs us, simply: ``Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.'' 4
We can surely assume peace to be among the ``things'' that ``shall be added'' as we allow prayer to enlighten our hearts. We can trust that private prayer, rousing fresh inspiration and uplifting public action, is neither difficult nor futile, because it is blessed of God.
Perhaps there are more invitations, more beckonings, in behalf of peace than we sometimes notice or accept. They may not be formal occasions, as mine was in the midst of a particular turmoil. But if peace isn't apparent anytime, anywhere, the invitation is also there for anybody willing to acknowledge God as the Father of all.
1 Matthew 5:9. 2 Psalms 91:5. 3 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 278-279. 4 Matthew 6:10, 33.