Media coverage regarding immigration in the United States and elsewhere has raised deep and divisive questions. Even though colonization and immigration have occurred since biblical times, the question persists: "Can people of different backgrounds and nations really work together for the common good?"
One example of hatred and division overcome is the peace in Northern Ireland and its democratically elected government. There were times during the Irish "troubles," as they were called, when it seemed impossible that such cooperation would ever come.
But hard work and prayer from many people helped bring it about. To me, this is a proof that people of different cultures and religions can live and work together in harmony. Such changes show what happens when love for our fellow man begins to counter hate, greed, acquisition, and exploitation, and respect and freedom are truly valued.
I've found opportunities to see this promise fulfilled one to one in my work as a volunteer chaplain at a prison located close to the California-Mexico border. It houses inmates who are allegedly illegal immigrants. I've met people there from Mexico, South America, Europe, Africa, China, Iraq, and Canada.
I often discuss with them the questions, who are you? what are you? And as part of that exploration, I ask them, "What is man?" Whatever a person's skin color is and whether he or she is of a particular political or religious persuasion is of small significance in relation to the importance of recognizing his or her essentially spiritual nature. Our spiritual relationship as children of one universal God unites us under His care.
I've found three biblical concepts particularly helpful. One, from the first chapter of Genesis, states that God made man in His image and likeness. Another, from Acts, quotes the Apostle Paul as saying that he was "free born" (22:28). The third is the statement, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17).
At the prison I met an inmate from Ethiopia who said that he had a degree in theology. As I shared some thoughts with the group on the innate spirituality and innocence that each of us has as the beloved ideas of a loving God, this man appeared resentful and argumentative. This may have been because I was presenting ideas that were foreign to his theology. It also may have had something to do with my being of a different race.
I was tempted for a moment to react, but I tried to listen and love and to see him as God's child. As we shared ideas, his demeanor softened. He asked interesting questions, took part in the discussion, and stopped trying to control the meeting.
We spoke about freedom – freedom to recognize the divine Principle (God), the laws of being, the love of God within each of us, and the fact that God was not punishing us. We talked about God being Principle, that is, law, order, and harmony. He loved the concepts. We also studied a description of God by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science (see "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 587). He thanked me and said he'd learned much. He came the next week and said he was grateful for the group.
Each of us can be open to ways to promote unity and harmony, despite differences. Perhaps Mary Baker Eddy had this in mind when she wrote: "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" p. 340).
This is a recipe for harmony and healing. We can strive for this higher ground in our lives and through dialogue among nations. Let conflict be resolved, and each of us recognize that we are free born, the beloved of God.