The impact of hurricane Katrina has been so massive that the death of perhaps as many as 900 to 1,000 pilgrims commemorating one of the Shiite saints hasn't received major coverage.
Many of those who died were women and children who were killed in Baghdad when panic broke out after false reports that a suicide bomber was in the area. Hundreds were also injured.
While such violence is not unusual in Iraq these days, the event is also a symbol of how fear - of political change, of different ethnic groups - seems so dominant in Iraq right now.
As I've been praying, I've felt more and more that solving the problems with Iraq's new constitution, ending the war, and addressing other conditions require a spiritual answer that will lift people above the issues that are dividing them.
As a Bible reader, I've found that the antidote to this fear, which is so divisive, is love. One of the letters in the Bible says specifically, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I John 4:18).
There's something about undiluted love that really does drive out fear. If you think about a time when you've been afraid and then a friend or relative has said a loving word that lifted your fear, you can see how this works. It seems impossible to be fearful and loving at the same time because fear and love are total opposites. It's also true, however, that it isn't always easy to switch from being fearful toward someone or something to being loving.
That's where our prayers - yours and mine - come in. We can pray for love to be as common in Iraq as oil - in fact, more common! And this is possible because God, divine Love, is infinite, ever present, even in the emptiest desert of that, or any other, country. No one is cut off from Love's help and Love's guidance, because we are in fact the children of Love, made in its likeness. This means that we not only are capable of loving; we actually have a natural inclination in that direction.
Easier said than done, you may say. True, but if each of us prays and also takes the time to express more love ourselves, and to be less fearful, we will be living an example that will provide comfort to those around us. As those people become less fearful and more loving - well, we might even start a trend. And such efforts really do help others, even in distant places.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good.... Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity" (p. 571).
I love that thought of all people being drawn together by the "higher humanity" that will cement their diverse interests into a unity of purpose.
Surely such uniting can only bless each individual and even the "side" he or she is part of. In fact, as unity develops under this one divinity's guidance and love, it's possible that those separate interests will disappear and genuine brotherhood will emerge, even among former enemies.
Former enemies. Isn't that a good thought - whether we apply it to Iraq or even to conditions in our own families? Let's join our prayers to let Love take away obstructions and to unite all interests under its care. This will be a way to permanent prosperity and peace - and a fitting memorial for those who lost loved ones in Iraq.
Thou preparest a table
before me in the presence
of mine enemies.