Human rights: Make prayer, not war

A Christian Science perspective.

Ethnic tension in a Chinese toy factory leads to violence that ends up with at least a thousand people injured and 192 killed – and the underlying issues still unresolved. A Chechen human rights activist, Natalya Estemirova, is kidnapped on her way to work and later found dead. While the war in Iraq may be winding down, the conflict in Pakistan and Afghanistan is heating up. Meanwhile, Iranians continue to struggle against a domineering ruling hierarchy. These may seem like separate examples of instability at a time when many are still distracted by the global economic crisis and its effects. Underneath, however, there's a burgeoning desire for human rights – the right to equality, respect, honest elections, safety from terrorism, and freedom from fear. And these aren't the only parts of the world yearning for freedom. To achieve these rights doesn't have to require violence, although some might feel that is the only solution. What it really requires is prayer.

This newspaper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, grew up in a free country, but she knew well the enslaving effects of sickness, of being misunderstood and hated as a woman who spoke in public, who challenged the then male bastions of science, theology, and medicine. Her writings ring with conviction when she speaks of human rights, especially in relation to healing. And they also apply to the kind of violence reported in the press. To follow her guidance is to achieve genuine and lasting freedom.

In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" she wrote: "God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims. These claims are not made through code or creed, but in demonstration of 'on earth peace, good-will toward men' " (p. 226). And this is a demonstration each praying individual can support for the nations – individually and collectively.

China is beset by various forms of ethnic tension, from issues in Tibet to the current troubles between the Han and the Uighurs in Xinjian Province. And the citizens of numerous other countries wrestle with similar issues. Yet, spiritually, all are perfect in the eyes of God. As St. Paul put it in his letter to the Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (3:28). Our discernment of the perfection and spirituality of man – male and female, free of mortal ethnicity but with a distinctly individual identity – will break down such ethnic barriers.

Jesus' ministry included several ethnic groups, such as the Samaritans, who were not well respected by Jews. He also helped a Syro-Phoenician woman, a Roman soldier, a woman thought to be a prostitute, and others. His ability to see the spiritual perfection of each individual brought about healing and changed character. This same spiritual discipline – of seeing perfection established and maintained by God, instead of judging outward factors – can defuse ethnic tensions wherever they occur today.

Mary Baker Eddy was no stranger to defamations and denials of the Christ-message she was carrying. She wrote, "Moral courage is requisite to meet the wrong and to proclaim the right" ("Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures," p. 327). This type of moral courage is evident in human rights activists such as Ms. Estemirova, and many others who have given their lives for this cause in various nations. Prayer can help further such efforts by recognizing divine Principle as the law that undergirds all true government. Since Principle is present everywhere, even in the most lawless places, prayer that appeals to divine power is not offered in vain. Even when progress is slow, God's purpose is oneness and harmony. The divine Mind doesn't work at cross-purposes. Under God's direction all are united for good, not evil, and the effect of understanding His presence is to reveal not just what needs to be corrected but to enforce that correction.

The demonstration of "on earth peace, good-will toward men" also embraces changes in leadership and, especially, the mitigation of war. It's legitimate to demand to see evidence of peace, intelligence, maturity, and foresight in relations among the nations. Our part is to pray with conviction – with spiritual knowledge. The practice of Christian Science includes hope, but it also recognizes the Science of this truth and its provability.

In the end, it is the voice of the Christ – God's healing message to all humanity – that will bring peace and stability to these days, that will open hearts and minds to unity of spirit. As each individual takes even a little time each day to embrace the world's people in their desire to be free, this prayer will make a manifest difference. Then good intention, instead of war, will break down those barriers to freedom and peace.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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