"Silence is violence" is the title of a new United Nations report on violence against girls and women in Afghanistan. It describes violence against women in public life as so intimidating that some female members of Parliament say they will not be running for reelection because of death threats and lack of security. Among other things, it also speaks of incidents at girls' schools that include gas and acid attacks.
Commenting on the report to The Christian Science Monitor, Dr. Sima Samar, who chairs the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said the argument that it's important "to have security rather than human rights ... is absolutely the wrong concept, since you need human rights for sustainable peace" ("New UN report takes firm stand on women's rights in Afghanistan," July 8).
Human rights are essential to peace because without them we can't fully know ourselves. The Bible says, "God created man in his own image ... male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27). To deny value to women is to deny value to one's own spiritual completeness, which includes both the male and female nature of God. Each of us has the capacity to express tenderness, gentleness, love, beauty – qualities often identified with women – while also including strength, persistence, and courage.
The arguments of cultural practices and long-held beliefs claim that allowing women equality and actual – not just theoretical – freedom and safety will be difficult, if not impossible. But this is not necessarily so. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy observed, "Discerning the rights of man, we cannot fail to foresee the doom of all oppression. Slavery is not the legitimate state of man. God made man free" (p. 227).
What are these rights? The chief one is to know the love of God, and His care for each of His spiritual ideas – that's you and me and all people. This love is tender and nurturing, but it also is demanding. It requires all people to love one another. As Jesus put it, the requirement is to love God and to love one's neighbor as oneself (see Luke 10:25–28). He didn't say, "Love your male neighbors" or "Love your female neighbors." He said to love your neighbor as yourself.
So each of us has the right and the requirement to love and be loved by God and to love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors includes seeing them as we wish to be seen – as spiritual and worthy of God's love. It's also feeling compassion for their human condition. Thus, one would never yield to the temptation to harm another – male or female – because of one's love for God, and also because of compassion for humanity.
We can contribute to the well-being and safety of our neighbors in Afghanistan. Our prayer can include the recognition that to truly love oneself is to accept all aspects of one's being – the "male and female" that God created. Each individual is designed to be complete, spiritual, and perfect, and to perceive these qualities in others. We honor this spiritual nature in ourselves, our friends, and even our enemies when we understand that all of us are under God's care and can respond to His direction. No other power can overcome the desire to do and to be good.
It's possible to go still further in prayer – to claim daily the power of divine government to uplift the thought of all people, so that violence doesn't have appeal, and hurting one another doesn't satisfy.
Nor can fear force someone into acting against the natural inclination to love. As John's First Letter puts it, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: ... He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I John 4:18). Fear begins to vanish as individuals gain genuine love for who they really are – the sons and daughters of divine Love. Then, when a violent act tempts one, it's possible to ask, "Would the son or daughter of divine Love do this?" True, for most of us the temptation is not the desire to commit an acid attack; it may be to yell at a salesperson or a relative for something they've done or haven't done. But the opportunity to conquer harmful thinking is the same.
To whatever degree we can reject the temptation to be violent or think violent thoughts – because we understand spiritually who we really are – this powerful approach will help uplift the thoughts of those around us and bless people everywhere.