The story describing the desperate plight of two Sudanese refugees was etched in my consciousness. I kept reading it over again.
I kept thinking about Ahmed who walked for four days to a refugee camp in neighboring Chad. Every day he listens to the BBC Radio broadcast, hoping to hear news of the end of the fighting so he can return home.
And then there is Amira, living in a camp in Sudan, struggling to nourish her baby. (See The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 10.)
Exasperated and frustrated by my own feelings of helplessness, I turned to a friend and asked: "What can we do? There has to be something we can do." But deep down I knew that another person wasn't going to be able to give me an answer. I knew that I had to find my answer where I always find the most satisfying answers - by praying to God.
This wasn't easy. But I reminded myself that often my hardest struggles have brought the greatest benefits. So I committed to listening to God for direction. What came to me as I prayed was this message: Stop giving power to things that don't have power - hatred, anger, fear, sadness.
God, Love, has the power - that's what I was learning from healings I was having through prayer. I found that as I stayed close to God and listened to Him, I experienced healing. The Bible says: "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God" (Ps. 62:11).
But I had to admit that I felt intimidated after reading about Amira and the other women being beaten by the Janjaweed, the Sudanese government-backed Arab militia, when they left camp to collect wood and grass.
The question came to me: Are you believing in a power apart from God? My answer was yes. And I knew that had to change despite all the evidence. My answer had to change because God was asking me to do better. I could be more steadfast and consistent in my prayers. I could be more willing to hold to the spiritual fact that there is only one supreme power, God, good - no matter what the evidence was saying to the contrary.
God's love and power govern every corner of the earth; they don't leave anyone out. It wasn't logical for me to worship and love God, Spirit, as an all-good power and presence only in some instances. My job was to refuse to consent to an evil power - period.
The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: "Your influence for good depends upon the weight you throw into the right scale. The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable. Evil is not power. It is a mockery of strength, which erelong betrays its weakness and falls, never to rise" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 192).
I learned lessons about not giving in to fear and intimidation some years ago when I had a manager who verbally abused me along with most of the employees in my department. I felt afraid, overwhelmed - a victim of another's actions that I couldn't do anything about. Although certainly not on the same scale of victimization as the Sudanese refugees, I felt mentally beaten up every day.
I prayed for an answer. The direction I heard was that I needed to take my stand for what was right. Certainly I had a right to be free and to feel joyful in my work, not fearful. The idea came to me to talk with my manager and tell her that I would not tolerate being verbally abused.
I wasn't upset or angry with her; I just knew that my rights were being violated, and it had to stop. I felt God's authority because I knew His power was on the side of good, of freedom.
We talked, and she listened to me. Everything changed after that. She never abused me again, and I worked in that department for some time.
My prayer for the Sudanese refugees is to know that they have their God-given freedom as children of God, and it can't be trampled on. They have a right to feel God's love and care, to feel blessed by God, and not victimized.
I love the moral courage those women expressed who refused to back down from leaving camp even though they were beaten. That refusal to be intimidated is a wonderful promise for their complete liberation. My prayer for myself is to have the humility to admit God's love more faithfully, more consistently, and to bear witness to His power more frequently.