SEVERAL years ago, I visited friends in what used to be Yugoslavia and found the splendor of the country overwhelming. One afternoon, to my delight I heard a parade coming up the main street. It was a typical small-town parade, but what caught my eye was a few people who were wearing military regalia from World War II. Later I asked some of my friends why this outdated military element was part of the celebration. They told me of the deep hatred many people still harbored for each other as a result of ev ents that occurred during, and just after, the Second World War. It was strange to encounter such hatred in an area so utterly beautiful and tranquil.
Entrenched hatred still doesn't make sense, whether we find it in Croatia, Somalia, Ireland, the Middle East, or Asia. Yet the particular area where we happen to live isn't what determines our opportunity to contribute to the healing of deeply embedded animosity. Our willingness to pray--and the way we live as a consequence of that prayer--can result in our most substantial contribution.
To pray effectively, it is natural to turn first to God and seek to understand His creation and His relationship to man. God is absolutely good. There is not a vestige of evil, not a hint of anything but love in what God creates. Since God is the only creative power, evil never has God-given reality; in this sense it was never really created. God's conception is actually the only creation; it is the only reality. A clearer view of spiritual reality--of God's perfect nature and therefore of the perfect na ture of God's expression, man--raises us above revenge, heals hatred. Such prayer isn't dependent on human hope or will but has all the strength of divinity supporting it.
The example Christ Jesus gave to us when he was faced with violent hatred is something we can all look to. Though he did not deserve anything but the love of mankind, he was unjustly scourged and crucified. Yet his own spiritually based love broke through the apparent hatefulness and vindictiveness of his captors. ``Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" was his prayer for them, Luke's Gospel tells us in the Bible. Although Jesus' captors were ignorant of their true identity as God's lovin g creation, that couldn't hinder God's purpose for Jesus. His resurrection and ascension occurred nevertheless, and blessed the whole world.
Speaking of Christ Jesus' impact on the world, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``He proved Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate." Life and Love are synonyms for God. And the strength of God, divine Love, when understood, restores the natural brotherhood of mankind. It regenerates us and purges away even deep-rooted bitterness.
In the face of ancestral, almost tribal, hatred, we can prayerfully apply these truths in practical ways. If we come upon long-term animosity in our own lives, we can be willing to abandon it. We can pray with Jesus, ``Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," and know the reason why. It is possible to forgive animosity when we see that it is devoid of God's strength. Prayer and forgiveness do have God's strength behind them, and they contribute to the overall peace of the world.
Entrenched hatred is absolutely no part of God's creation. On this basis, if we hear of violence in different parts of the world, we can wholeheartedly acknowledge that the power of God's love can bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing.