The boy with the bomb at the border

Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel

Hussam Abdo, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy and would-be suicide bomber, grabbed world headlines briefly last month when he didn't blow himself up. He showed up at a checkpoint on the West Bank with 18 pounds of explosives strapped to him. He got close to a number of Israeli soldiers. Then ... he changed his mind. He put it this way: "When the soldiers stopped me, I didn't press the switch. I changed my mind. I didn't want to die anymore. I'm sorry for what I did."

Both sides seized on his story, especially his age, as a weapon-of-the-moment in the PR war to win over world opinion. (Sadly, suicide bombers are younger and younger, some even in their preteen years now.) Each side spun versions of Abdo's tale that blamed the other side for his tragic intent and near-tragic end.

Perhaps the most promising angle is altogether different and neither fuels animosity nor invites political spin and media attention. Could the real issue be, What caused Hussam Abdo to change course? In a region exploding with bitterness and recrimination, what forwarded that inner prompting not to press the switch?

Maybe it wasn't just fear. Maybe a sacred text from the Old Testament tells us. The book of Job says, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (32:8). Was it a spirit of hope and reconciliation from the Almighty - from the loving God who is Father and Mother of us all - that somehow pressed one boy, for one moment, to commit one sane act? If so, it could happen to two boys, for two moments. And for many more boys and girls, for many more moments.

The "spirit" of which Job speaks, while often unnoticed, is already present in each person. Once this is recognized and nurtured, the hope tends to build, to increase. So does its good effect. While a pattern of boys, girls, men, or women quietly committing humane, peace-inducing acts is foreign to headlines, it is native, in the deepest sense, to people on both sides of the border.

It's natural and inevitable that the heavenly Father plants in every heart the seeds of hope and reconciliation. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, it is natural for God's children to cultivate these seeds until they spring up into full flower. It's the nature of good to spread until one day it covers the whole ground. And not just hope and reconciliation. Things such as understanding, forgiveness, forbearance also come from the same divine source. They all proliferate. To know this is to pray. To cherish every proof of it, no matter how slight, is to help those prayers take root in daily experience.

At first glance, the West Bank may seem like an unlikely place to go hunting for inspiration from the Almighty. Then again it's a great place to see signs of that inspiration, flowing from God, who is only Love. Where better to realize that the healing effect of His love can't be walled off or locked behind borders?

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me," says the First Commandment. Understood and practiced from a Christianly scientific standpoint, these words of Moses, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, can accomplish incredible results - including establishing the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity, ending wars, and demonstrating peace on earth (see "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 279).

Since the spirit of a loving Father, an endlessly patient Mother, is planted in each heart, people everywhere deserve to know this, to feel its calming, assuring, violence-defusing power. Then the day will come closer when more boys strapped with bombs will say, "I didn't press the switch." Better yet, the day will come closer when boys no longer strap on bombs at all.

And the streets of the city
shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

Zechariah 8:5

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