Ethiopia's recent elections, in which the opposition showed surprising strength, appear to have caught all observers off guard. The subsequent action by the government has contributed to dozens of deaths, and led to hundreds of arrests that seem to be inconsistent with the rule of law, and to many demonstrations in capital cities outside the country. Once again, it seems, "Great pain shall be in Ethiopia" (Ezek. 30:4) Does this ancient and beautiful land have to remain stuck in a cycle of misery, poverty, and death? The Bible says no.
When I was working in Ethiopia, I found the prayer of Jesus very helpful. All Christians unite in this prayer, which begins with the famous inclusive invocation, "Our Father." This recognizes God as the divine Parent of all. It doesn't matter whether we are Ethiopians or Australians or Ecuadoreans, God is the one Father-Mother who tenderly loves all His/Her ideas - us, our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters across the seas.
This is a solid spiritual base for the idealism of brotherhood, and a good starting point for any conflict mediation. Christianly based conflict resolution, therefore, begins with the framework for success already established: The family of humanity is united and nurtured by this divine Parent; no one is left outside the circle.
Everyone is included in God's infinite embrace - not only Christians, but Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, communists and conservatives, libertarians and liberals, college professors and truck drivers. God loves every one of us. This love is the ground of our being. It provides us a commonality.
The Lord's Prayer says, "Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10), and Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, gives, in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the spiritual sense of this statement as "Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present" (page 16).
Not only is God our divine Parent, but God's kingdom is with us now. We are never separated from this divine kingdom. In it there are no warring factions, no feuds, no nonnegotiable positions. We are not left on our own to find the solution for conflict, because the solution exists in the divine Mind we call God. Acknowledging that God is present and that His laws are in operation allows us to hear His guidance.
At one particular time while working in Ethiopia, I found the Lord's Prayer was particularly meaningful. We had negotiated for me to bring a group of journalists and others into the prime minister's palace to support the visit of a high official from my country, but when we arrived, the palace guards refused to let us enter. An impasse quickly developed, and tempers flared.
Everyone became more belligerent, and I noticed with alarm that a couple of men in both parties appeared to be readying themselves for some kind of combat. Clearly, things were about to get out of hand.
At that moment, I prayed to know that we all had only one Father-Mother, God. This one divine Parent embraced us all, loved us all, guided us all. I knew that in God's kingdom there could be neither conflict nor resentment, but that harmony and brotherhood had to be the reality.
Not knowing quite what I was going to say, I walked up to the guard unit commander with a smile on my face and greeted him. I asked about his family, and he responded with a smile. The animosity melted away. We chatted for a moment, and then I told him that we needed to enter in time for the journalists with me to hear the words of his prime minister. He grinned widely and opened the gates.
A small incident, but illustrative of divine Love's action, which can cut through hurt feelings, anger, resentment, misunderstanding, and build from the foundation of spiritually conceived brotherhood. This same principle, writ large, can apply to today's challenging situation in Ethiopia. God's love embraces all humanity, including government figures, political opposition, students, business people - all citizens in God's kingdom.
The prayer of acknowledging spiritually based brotherhood can help fulfill another biblical prophecy: "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God" (Ps. 68:31). In that returning embrace toward God, all humanity is included as well. Peace can be established. This is my prayer for Ethiopia.