At this season we often hear of hope for peace on earth. It's also a time when we can reflect on a situation where peace did come to earth.
It took place in 1905, when a war had raged between Russia and Japan for about 18 months.
At one point, both nations were exhausted with the human and financial costs of the war and were looking to entertain peace. This led to a peace conference under the auspices of President Theodore Roosevelt, which was held in Portsmouth, N.H., beginning in August 1905. President Roosevelt later won the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts.
During the process, negotiations that took place at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, were, at several points, on the verge of a breakdown. On two separate occasions, Czar Nicholas II of Russia had ordered his delegation to end the conference and return to Russia. The Japanese were also preparing to return home.
During this time there were many valiant efforts for peace going on in governmental, business, social, and religious and spiritual arenas in what has since been called "multitrack diplomacy." Many people were praying and working for peace, before and during the peace conference.
In December 1904, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, had a letter published in the Boston Globe, stating: "The First Commandment in the Hebrew Decalogue - 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me' - obeyed, is sufficient to still all strife" (as reprinted in "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 279). She had also written that the First Commandment was her "favorite text." She stated, "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself...' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 340).
She asked every member of her church in Boston to "pray each day for the amicable settlement of the war between Russia and Japan; and pray that God bless that great nation and those Islands of the sea with peace and prosperity." Later she asked them to stop special prayers for this situation, but to pray: " 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,' " and to have "faith in God's disposal of events" ("Miscellany," pp. 279-281).
As it turned out, the peace treaty was negotiated in about 20 days, which was a near record in modern times, and it ended the war.
When a resolution came and a treaty was signed on Sept. 5, 1905, there was a great outpouring of gratitude, symbolized by a thanksgiving service at Christ Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, which included an Episcopal evensong, immediately followed by an Orthodox thanksgiving service. These services were replicated individually this year, 100 years later, as a sign of continuing gratitude for this peace treaty.
When the terms of the treaty had been agreed upon, Mary Baker Eddy gave the credit to God. In another letter published in the Boston Globe in August 1905, she wrote, "While I admire the faith and friendship of our chief executive in and for all nations, my hope must still rest in God, and the Scriptural injunction, - 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth' " (as reprinted in "Miscellany," p. 282).
While the treaty did not please everyone, it led to a peace that lasted many years. Turning to God in prayer gives us a recipe for dealing with conflicts in our family, community, or nations. This example of seeing peace come to the world illustrates that conflict is not inevitable and that "on earth peace, good will toward men" is possible.
Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.