The right evidence

IT takes a measure of fortitude for the world citizen to scan the headlines or listen to the news-hour summary of events abroad. The news is rife with plot and mayhem: Israeli diplomat slain in a Cairo suburb; moderate Sikh party leader assassinated in India; car bomb kills 44 in Tripoli, Lebanon; more rioting and arrests in South Africa. Even the analysis columns and broadcast interview segments, which we turn to for understanding and assurance, can add to the gloom and dismay: warnings that further pressure on the Botha regime in South Africa will lead to civil war and assertions that meddling non-South Africans should bear responsibility; bickering among American congressmen, and among churchmen, over the symbolism of selling Krugerrands; debate over whether Syria's Assad prefers chaos in Beirut to the risk of imposing a Pax Damascus which the warring factions might ignore; lack of certainty over the motives and identity of the car-bomb combatants in Lebanon; speculation that the Egyptian incident was intended to derail Jordanian-Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, which had already suffered a setback last weekend when United States Middle East specialist Richard Murphy returned to Washington disappointed.

Reason spurned. The negotiation table pounded by violence. It all looks like a full plate of trouble and a spare cup of hope.

We have been told there would be times like these, of ``wars and rumours of wars,'' nations and families fatally divided.

These are the times to consider again in what we trust: Is it in the bitter scene that would dishearten or incite us, or in the conviction that the evil display must eventually yield to the superior power of peace, equity, and lovingkindness.

When the evidence is worst is a time to pray.

Where we, as individuals, feel the furthest removed from influence, that is the best place to practice the compassion that forgives and heals.

If we seem to lack the historical and psychological insights to understand any given strife, we can know that there is really only one general enmity, whose claim to identity acquires the guise of a specific precipitating grievance.

The one enmity, as old as Esau and Abel, piles grievance on grievance as if to bury the fact that it was at the outset a condition of the heart, not of patrimony or possession, that motivated the bloodshed.

We are dealing with human motives in world affairs as much as in our private conduct.

Events may seem to run on of their own power, to create conditions that determine relationships. But this is not true. Events are the way thought describes itself. And we are all responsible for our own thinking.

We have been told where, now, to put our trust:

``Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

``Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

``Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.''

This is news of quite a different order.

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