From The London Times to The New York Times, the outbreak of violence at Fort Hood, Texas, in which 13 people were killed and 30 wounded made headlines. At first, an erroneous report of multiple shooters, some taken captive and one shot dead, circulated. Later Thursday night, authorities indicated that there had been only one gunman, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and that he was wounded but still alive. The other men being held were released.
President Barack Obama asked all Americans "to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers." To scroll through news website photos of the scene, seeing grief-stricken family members, was enough to wring anyone's heart and to raise the question, "How could this happen?"
But to dwell on this question is to try to analyze the motives of senseless evil. Instead, it's better to pray for those affected by the attack and to allow divine wisdom to guide all who are searching for answers to what actually happened and why, if it's possible to discover it.
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount offers some inspiration for our prayers. He told people, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). This comfort comes from the Christ, the spiritual message of God's love for humanity, which the man Jesus represented, but which actually transcends denomination, time, and space. It is a spiritual force, present here with us now. It is with the people at Fort Hood and with all the men and women in the armed services all around the world. It is God's Comforter, providing peace to every heart that opens up even slightly to its message of divine Love's care.
The Christ is here to strengthen those who are bereaved and to guide them through the many decisions they need to make, especially at this time when answers may be hard to find. God's tenderness is here to guard against bitterness and hatred. His strength and love can reach into the human heart with healing.
Prayer that truth be uncovered also contributes to healing. Mary Baker Eddy, who established this newspaper, provided powerful spiritual guidance in this passage from her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Let Truth uncover and destroy error in God's own way, and let human justice pattern the divine" (p. 542). Prayer can support this outcome.
There is also a larger community that deserves our thoughts. It is people in the military around the world, who are facing the stresses and strains of deployment, of separation from families, of fears that they could be killed by another sniper, the next roadside bomb. Or who have seen horrific deaths in battle. And even after they have returned to their homes, many still face the memories and some suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can be extremely challenging.
Most people can understand at least to some degree what soldiers on the front lines must face. This understanding can lead to compassion for all who are in this situation. Compassion can stir us to pray more often for the safety of all troops, no matter where they are serving.
Our prayers can also include a spiritual demand for peace, that humanity has the right to be free of war, and that people everywhere can know the joy of being with their loved ones. The Christ can do this because it's God's message of love. Love is the force that will ultimately redeem these times and open the way to reliable peace.
Whenever we pray for peace sincerely and deeply, and strive to live peace in our own lives, we are helping protect the troops in action, and ease the worries and fears of those left behind. A growing commitment to peace in the world will open the way for guns to grow silent and for soldiers around the world to know the joy of serving their nation and finally being able to go home – in peace.