India, Pakistan, and your prayers
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Over a million troops now line the Pakistan/India border, according to some military analysts, as the two nations - both with significant nuclear arsenals - gear up for possible war. In dispute, once again, is the territory known as Kashmir, a Himalayan region situated between the two nations that each side claims as its own. India has governed Kashmir for over 40 years and, according to some, has so mishandled the task that massive uprisings have erupted there in protest. For its part, Pakistan, despite encouraging comments from its leader over the weekend, has supported terrorist squads operating in Kashmir, and at times appears ready to undercut India in any way it can. US Secretary of State Colin Powell remains in almost daily contact with the leaders of the two countries and visits there this week.
Some observers hope the buildup of troops is a posturing for, not a foreshadowing of, war. Certainly a seemingly endless capacity to blame one another continues to stoke the flames of animosity. A recent commentary in the Los Angeles Times stated, "[India and Pakistan] are obsessed with a regional blame game, each holding the other accountable for past, present and future bad deeds and each refusing to accept responsibility for its own misguided polices" (Jan. 11).
If the pattern of blame is one most of us know firsthand, it's also one that finds a healing counterpoint in the Scriptures. Consider one of Christ Jesus' parables anew. It might, in fact, provide a road map for the prayer that ends any blame game. And therefore, it might help the easing of tensions in the India/Pakistan dispute.
You'll recall from the parable of the prodigal a father and two sons. (See Luke 15:11-32.) The younger son asks for his inheritance, leaves home, squanders all he has, and becomes destitute. The other stays faithfully on. In time, the younger son returns home, repentant. The father welcomes him as one dead who is alive again. The older son objects and continues to blame the brother for his reckless past. Why? He evidently fears the brother's return will reduce his own inheritance. The father makes a key comment to the older brother. "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine" (verse 31).
The impulse to blame suddenly diminishes when we learn we've lost nothing. The presumed threat is no longer a threat. The thing feared isn't so fearful after all. And this is what the father conveys. The older son is not given all that is left. He is given all. Of course, so is the younger son. Once we glimpse that gifts from the heavenly Father don't shrink because of what the Father has bestowed elsewhere, we no longer fear we'll lose out. Blame drifts toward obsolescence.
This is a message of Christ: that God-bestowed riches are never chopped in half. Of course, the gifts we're talking about are spiritual in nature - things such as peace, harmony, integrity, wisdom - not chunks of real estate. God is not parceling out so much dirt to each person, each nation. Still, even a budding understanding that it's the Father's pleasure to give each of His offspring the entire kingdom goes a long way toward reassuring both sides in a dispute.
The need is not to convince someone else, such as military leaders halfway around the world, of this. The need is for you and me to hew to this understanding in our prayers. Such prayer minimizes the inclination to blame. It extinguishes hatred. It buttresses the worth and self-esteem of every people and nation.
It would be unfairly misusing the story of the prodigal to suggest that this or that son symbolizes a particular country, India or Pakistan. Yet the father's promise made to one son and implicitly given to both is an assurance to all. And that, at least, is a starting point for the prayer for peace among nations.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote: "The understanding, even in a degree, of the divine All-power destroys fear, and plants the feet in the true path, - the path which leads to the house built without hands 'eternal in the heavens.' Human hate has no legitimate mandate and no kingdom. Love is enthroned" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 454).
As we enthrone Love, not blame, in our own consciousness, we make a healing prayer.