The murderous actions of two IRA splinter groups were designed to shatter the peace in Northern Ireland, but instead they've achieved what they did not want or expect. They've united people to stand for peace. As The Belfast Telegraph put it, "Protestant and Catholic Church leaders urged the people of Northern Ireland today to send out a united message that peace is the only way forward" ("Start wearing purple for peace, say Northern Ireland church leaders," March 12). And over the weekend, hundreds of people attended peace vigils.
Anyone who has followed the transformation that Belfast and other parts of the North have been through since the height of the "Troubles" will agree that this peace was hard-earned and deeply desired. In light of that great effort, it's only fitting that all who care about peace offer prayer for continued progress in this beautiful country.
One major fear is that these violent actions will once again plunge the North into war and chaos. Even though God, who is divine Spirit, may seem insubstantial before the dreadful events that have taken place, ultimately, evil can't resist spiritual power and intelligence. As the prophet Nahum put it, "The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.... Affliction shall not rise up the second time" (1:7, 9)
For peace to be permanent, these vicious attacks need to stop, but this involves a change of thought. This change comes about in two ways. The first is to let go of the fear that this affliction can "rise up the second time." Just as an oak tree can't crawl back inside the acorn, the spiritual growth that comes from working and praying for peace can't vanish in mental darkness.
Prayer that confidently affirms this spiritual fact will be a great support during this time.
The second change may be more difficult. While it's tempting to reject the individuals who committed these crimes, it's important in prayer to remember that even on the cross, Jesus was able to forgive his enemies.
Hatred has a way of begetting hatred; it keeps the cycle of destruction going. But to meet one's enemies with Christly love breaks the cycle. This doesn't condone evil actions, but it does recognize each individual's spiritual nature, which is given by the God who is also divine Love. Through Love's power, these individuals can gain the self-knowledge to see their actions and to change their ways.
This may seem impossible, but the truth of God can open the heart of even hardened criminals and show them the need to rise higher. The light of Christ, Truth, brings peace and even fearlessness to those who may be able to help the investigation through providing tips or observations. It can do much to assist the police in finding the 300-pound bomb said to be somewhere in the North. Each prayer and act of kindness motivated by Christly love for one's fellow man and woman will make a difference.
This promise is proved true each time someone is able to think a peaceful thought when he or she is tempted to be angry or frustrated. Whenever one is able to love in the face of ignorance, jealousy, or hate, one has contributed to the peace process.
In one of her articles Mary Baker Eddy made a profound comment about the workings of peace: "Individuals, as nations, unite harmoniously on the basis of justice, and this is accomplished when self is lost in Love – or God's own plan of salvation" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 283). To lose self in Love, in God's plan, is to unite one's heart and one's efforts with peace, with goodness and mercy. It is to give up the human will that outlines a particular political solution or in some other way deprives one of the mental freedom to follow divine guidance. To love this way is to support permanent peace in Northern Ireland. And the fact that so many people there are already united for peace should lift our hearts and give more diligence to our prayers.