As the number of violent deaths climbs in Iraq, polls in the United States show an eroding support for the war. In other countries, popular sentiment ranges from staunchly in favor of the effort to outright hostility to it and to the coalition partners.
Whether we support the war in Iraq or not, it's important not to confuse that political opinion with the divine imperative to pray for all involved - coalition troops, Iraqi citizens, and even insurgents. While some observers point to the historical difficulties of maintaining peace in a land where people seem to have been at each other's throats for more than 1,000 years, I still find I can keep my confidence that peace can prevail, and that everyone can return safely.
My confidence isn't founded on wishful thinking, but on my understanding of God. I know that God is greater than the difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam, than between Christian and Muslim adherents, than between East and West - even though those very differences have been the cause of war and resentment over the centuries. Yet understanding the omnipotence and omnipresence of God can help us bridge these differences.
Right now, conflict is raging very close to where the prophet Abraham raised his eyes to the heavens and realized there was only one supreme and infinite God, totally removed from matter. This breakthrough gave us what some call the Abrahamic tradition of monotheism.
So, very close to the sites of present-day conflict is the spot where the worship of one God really took hold and prospered. Here is a point where Christianity, Islam, and Judaism converge - on the all-presence of God. This commonality can serve as a unifying force. My English translation of the Koran reads, "The East and the West is God's: therefore, whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God: Truly God is immense and knoweth all" (Sura II).
Similarly, the Bible declares, "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations" (Ps. 22:27, 28). One God relates us all not only to Him but to one another. In God's sight, we can't be enemies.
I live in a town in Virginia that is equidistant from a large Marine Corps base and an Army base. Military families are a major part of life here, and I see hundreds of bumper stickers and car magnets exhorting us all to "Pray for our troops." With a son in the Marines - currently in Iraq - and a son-in-law in the Army, I join them in prayer.
During any war, it's easy to stigmatize the other side's troops as evil, degenerate, or ruthless, and sometimes I have to confess that I have found myself doing that. Not long ago, however, I found in the Bible a statement of a political alliance between Solomon and Hiram, king of the neighboring nation of Tyre, in which Solomon is recorded as saying, "But now the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent" (I Kings 5:4).
While this described the political situation at that time in Israel's history, I realized that it could be a declaration of the ideal. It is challenging to take it from mere history to a signal of God's spiritual reality. But I have come to see that putting God first results in peace, with no adversary or any evil threat on the horizon. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, gave the spiritual sense of the first words of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven," as "Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 16).
The one God necessitates universal harmony. While there are sure to be differences in language, culture, religion, and economic development, these need not be springboards to conflict. My daily prayer affirms God's oneness and omnipotence, which rule out any possibility of existence or power to evil.
The allness of God opens an inescapable divine parenthood that embraces us all and promises the achievable goal of resolution of conflict and the establishment of peace. We can pray for all the troops, all the civilians, and ourselves.