AS you read this article, people who call themselves Christians are committing murder in the name of ``ethnic cleansing" in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Nigeria, Christians and Muslims are in conflict; in Northern Ireland, terrorist Christians battle other Christians, and so it goes. Why are so many violent acts committed in the name of religion, even by people who ostensibly accept the Bible's Ten Commandments, including the one that says, ``Thou shalt not kill?"
One concerned reader of this newspaper commented about the inhumanity in Sarajevo, pointing out, ``That's not Christian!" And it isn't. The master Christian, Christ Jesus, never condoned violence or murder. For example, when soldiers came to arrest him on the night he was betrayed, one of the disciples, in Jesus' defense, cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Even at that extreme moment, the Master rebuked the disciple and healed the man. Jesus, whose whole ministry teaches us that ``God is lo ve," as the Bible puts it, knew that violent attacks on one's fellowman have no place among those who would follow him.
What, then, is the driving force behind such religious conflicts? Isn't it the same limited view of God that has led to so much bloodshed during other times in world history? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, puts it this way in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``The eastern empires and nations owe their false government to the misconceptions of Deity there prevalent. Tyranny, intolerance, and bloodshed, wherever found, arise from the belief that the
infinite is formed after the pattern of mortal personality, passion, and impulse."
It follows, then, that our prayers for Bosnia-Herzegovina and other areas need to affirm not just the presence of God but also His real nature as all-loving and ever-present Spirit, or Mind. This divine intelligence knows us as we truly are, namely, spiritual. And He loves all His offspring, not just certain factions or denominations.
Our prayers also can include the divine fact that man is God's likeness and expresses only good--love, truth, purity, and wisdom. God's man is not a murderer, a fanatic, or a rapist; he is spiritual and good. Such affirmations are not meant to ignore wrong behavior--whether by Christians, Muslims, or others. They represent, instead, our refusal to accept the ``misconceptions of Deity there prevalent." In this way, we are affirming what right behavior truly is, instead of accepting the belief that murdero us fanaticism can wear the cloak of Christianity or that God could ever desire His children to destroy each other.
We reinforce the power of our prayers as we strive to express justice and mercy in our own lives in the way Christ Jesus shows us. Such behavior affirms our own spirituality. And our efforts--sometimes struggles--to live from this spiritual standpoint develop both our compassion and our intelligence.
As Jesus' ministry and the work of the early apostles showed, an understanding of God as Love can reverse even the most terrible conditions. And this is why our diligent prayers for all in Bosnia-Herzegovina and other troubled areas are so needed. Through these prayers, we refuse to take sides and instead affirm what is spiritually true for all.
Praying in this way, we are truly loving our enemies, turning to the spiritual instead of focusing on the murderous and mortal. Such prayer redeems the evildoer through the power of Christ, God's spiritual truth, and it saves the innocent--demonstrating that all are really God's children and can behave as such.