Spiritual strategies for peaceful conflict resolution
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
As the war in Iraq got under way, a US magazine published the first- person story of a woman whose husband is a helicopter pilot on the front lines. Despite her personal stake in the war's outcome, she could still say, "My heart just pours out to Iraqi families...."
To see past the shooting and embrace families on the other side of the conflict is, in fact, a powerful prayer. It's a reminder that all of God's children are connected in the secret, spiritual place of His care that Psalm 91 describes: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
How much of a difference can prayer make in resolving conflicts? While I can't do much to shape military outcomes in combat areas, I can take better charge of how I think and act here at home. As armies clash and terror-threat levels rise, fear and distrust may cloud the normal balance and unity of God's universal family. Rediscovering that balance comes from better understanding the laws of God that embrace everyone - whether they're on the front lines, or in the checkout line.
In doing what I can to promote peaceful relations, I pray to see that we're a world living under a power higher than our own. As I've sought ways to develop a stronger sense of inclusiveness, three concepts - you might call them spiritual strategies - have helped guide my thoughts and actions:
• To think beyond just myself, beyond just today.
• To challenge conventional thinking about relationships.
• To make a significant difference.
First, thinking beyond just myself or just today means being unselfish, patient, and caring. It means basing my actions on the bedrock of higher motives that come from spiritual reasoning, rather than on the ebb and flow of opinions. I pray daily to see that mine isn't the only path to salvation, and that our Father-Mother God loves and protects all His children impartially.
Second, challenging conventional thinking about relationships has led me to work for peace - that is, to recognize that the invincible foundation of harmonious relationships is the ever-presence of God in the very minutiae of our daily lives. The enemy of peaceful relations (whether interpersonal or international) is fear, and its weapons aren't missiles and mortars but ignorance, oppression, revenge. Defeating these weapons calls us to deploy faith, courage, and compassion, led by the wisdom of God and precision-guided by the unifying power of divine Love.
Mary Baker Eddy saw this over a century ago. Having witnessed the devastation of the US Civil War, she wrote: "A few immortal sentences, breathing the omnipotence of divine justice, have been potent to break despotic fetters and abolish the whipping-post and slave market; but oppression neither went down in blood, nor did the breath of freedom come from the cannon's mouth. Love is the liberator" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 225).
Third, as I seek to make a difference, I join with those who are praying for the peaceful resolution of current conflicts, as well as for the protection and safety of all who are in harm's way. This deep, all-encompassing prayer for the well-being of everyone is effective as we consent to the authority of good. Such prayer helps end hostility on the battlefield or at home, in offices or on street corners.
Mrs. Eddy also observed, "The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good" (pg. 518). This, to me, is the key to resolving conflicts and advancing peace: finding our good in promoting someone else's. Like the woman who poured out her heart to Iraqi families while her husband was in combat with their countrymen, we need to look beyond the limits of our own horizons to discover the very real, very present good that we can extend to our world.