Can Iraq's slide into civil war be prevented? The hundreds of killings in recent days, tragedy upon tragedy forced on innocent families, have seemed to forecast future unrest on a massive scale.
The weekend curfew appears to have quieted the turbulence, at least for a while. This tenuous peace, however, needs time to establish itself as a viable possibility in the hearts and minds of the three main Iraqi factions (Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds).
Iraq's agony is a focus of concern around the world. Thoughtful people from all political persuasions want to see a basis for stability established so that democratization can continue. All agree that plots of terrorists, in whose interests a free and self-governing Iraq do not seem to lie, must be foiled.
Those of us on the outside are not helpless bystanders. We can be peacemakers without traveling to Iraq. This can happen through our prayers.
I saw this was a practical course of action a few years ago, when I was working in an African country that had emerged only recently from civil war. One morning, I came out of my office to find my employees enraged and screaming at one another over unresolved issues from the war. It was as though the civil war were being reenacted.
My first reaction was to turn to God in prayer, to establish that God had not taken sides in the war and loved all His children equally. In this spiritual view of community, there was no rage, because God's love covered all of us, melting away hatred and resentment.
I asked quietly for peace, and instantly the quarrel stopped and everyone returned to work. Back at my desk, I took a moment to pray again that God was present, that His Mind was guiding all to acceptable reconciliation. There never again was another conflict in the office.
Scientific prayer that affirms the allness of God, giving all power to Him, can be an active force in world affairs.
In the early days of the 20th century, during the Russo- Japanese war, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, called for prayers to resolve the conflict. In December 1904, she wrote for The Boston Globe: "God is Father, infinite, and this great truth, when understood in its divine metaphysics, will establish the brotherhood of man, end wars, and demonstrate 'on earth peace, good will toward men' " ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 279).
A few months later, in the Christian Science Sentinel, discussing the establishment of peace, she wrote, "On this basis the brotherhood of all peoples is established; namely, one God, one Mind, and 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' the basis on which and by which the infinite God, good, the Father-Mother Love, is ours and we are His in divine Science" ("Miscellany," p. 281).
Within weeks, the peace accords of the Treaty of Portsmouth, signed just a few miles from her home, brought an end to the conflict.
The time for the world to support the Iraqi peace and reconciliation process is now. Our prayers that begin from the solid basis of an all-powerful Holy Spirit, Creator of all, can contribute to a calming of the mental environment. One God, the Source of all good, is the only power, and our prayers to see this established will help lessen resentment, malice, and fear.
We can be spiritual activists, bringing the force of prayer, acknowledging God as irresistible Love, to our neighbors in Iraq.
Peace I leave with you,
my peace I give unto you:
not as the world giveth,
give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.