THIS week and next, a global conference on human rights is being held in Vienna under the auspices of the United Nations. Those attending it will be discussing the state of human rights around the world. It is the first conference of this type in twenty-five years. To many of us, human rights violations are illustrated by the news media reports of rape and murder in the former Yugoslavia. But this is not the only place where arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and the like are having a chilling effect.
Many good and worthwhile actions are being taken to help individuals who are struggling under these conditions. Some of us may be part of these efforts, and all of us can support them through our prayers.
To me, the outstanding example of how to overcome such evils is Christ Jesus. He faced the hatred of authorities who wanted to destroy him. But in his Sermon on the Mount, which is recorded in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus gives his followers, including us, new insight into dealing with those who hate them. He said, ``Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is i n heaven.''
The record shows that Christ Jesus followed his own directions, even through the horror of the crucifixion. But does this mean that we need to love those who are committing atrocious crimes and seemingly getting away with it?
In a sense, the answer is yes, but what we are loving is never the evildoing. And the love that brings healing is divine, not simply human affection. Christian Science, which was discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy, teaches that the man God created is spiritual and good. The evidence often seems to dispute the spiritual facts, however, because we are seeing ``through a glass, darkly'' as Paul put it in his wonderful lesson on love in First Corinthians. Instead of the reality, which is the man God c reated, the world presents us with the rapist, murderer, torturer.
This false view of reality would also tell us that problems of this type can be solved only by a violent response--revenge, bloodshed, war. Mrs. Eddy has a substantially different view of what brings freedom, and she states it explicitly in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She assures us, ``Love is the liberator.''
What obscures our vision and keeps us from trusting divine Love, God, is the belief that man is actually material or is a combination of matter and spirit. The material element, what the Bible calls the ``carnal'' mind, keeps us from seeing our own--and otherstrue, spiritual nature. This does not mean, however, that evil behavior comes from God or is part of His or our spiritual nature. Far from it!
It does mean that by recognizing man's spirituality, we begin to drive a wedge between the evil action and the individual. The more clearly we see that man is spiritual, the more certain we become that he could never do evil. As this distinction grows clearer, we see that the man God created is everyone's actual nature. Evil behavior isn't natural to anyone.
As we recognize this, we begin to understand that the perpetrators of such acts are as much prisoners as the people they are hurting. They are caught up in the belief that mortality is their fate, and that nothing can be done about it because God is absent. This grossly mistaken outlook is chillingly illustrated by a statement of one of the men who interrogated Jacobo Timerman when he was being held prisoner by the military regime in Argentina. In his book Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, he recounts that one interrogator said to him, `` `Only God gives and takes life. But God is busy elsewhere, and we're the ones who must undertake this task in Argentina.''' But God is never ``busy elsewhere''; He is always present and actively caring for His creation.
Our prayers for improved human rights can vigorously dispute any form of the belief that God, divine Love, is absent or that any evil power can act in His place. Divine Love is infinite and no one can actually be cut off from it. No official regulations, no policies that move prisoners suddenly from one place to another (so none of their loved ones can find them) and other efforts of evil can keep Love's influence from being felt as a rejuvenating power to the prisoner and a redeeming demand on his keepe r. The ever- presence of God, Love, means that no one can ever be cut off from the divine power to save and to heal.
The influence of divine Love takes many forms, but in each case its purpose is to redeem all who are willing to be redeemed and to free those who are held captive. Through our prayers, the world can feel more and more the influence of divine Love, which liberates all.
Whether this becomes evident through improved conditions for prisoners, more enlightened governments, or some change we can't foresee as yet, each of us can persist in knowing that divine Love is universal and all-powerful. It rolled the stone away from Jesus' tomb, and it will also open the prison doors. BIBLE VERSE: Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God.... and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's hands were loosed. Acts 16: 25, 26