Prayer for peace and understanding in Nigeria

A Christian Science perspective.

“I don’t think anybody should begin to talk about [a] reprisal attack. We must continue to foster peace and understanding,” said Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State governor in Nigeria (Nigerian Tribune, March 10). He was referring to this week’s massacre of several hundred people, including women and children, in Jos, the capital of Plateau State. Various motives for the massacre have been mentioned: that it was a reprisal for an attack on a different village by some Jos residents, motivated by hatred between Christians and Muslims, or that it was the result of tensions between two different tribes. Perhaps it is a combination of these and more.

Whatever the human reasoning might be, there is no real way to justify such a massacre. But rather than focusing on the horror of the crime, each of us can help “foster peace and understanding” through prayer.

Whenever there’s confusion or a clashing of minds about what to do or how to do it, I find this statement from Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” to be helpful: “Mind is God. The exterminator of error is the great truth that God, good, is the only Mind, and that the supposititious opposite of infinite Mind – called devil or evil – is not Mind, is not Truth, but error, without intelligence or reality” (p. 469).

The divine Mind can protect, direct, and reveal whatever is needed in order to restore peace and harmony to Jos and the area around it. Being all-intelligent, Mind can inspire the people involved to seek a peaceful solution that can eliminate the desire for reprisal attacks and lead to reconciliation.

It helps to understand that each individual is actually spiritual, the child of Mind, created for a good purpose, made with love, designed to be safe and satisfied. This is who and what we are, and it’s true for each citizen of Jos also. Just as a human parent cherishes his or her children, so does God love each of us no matter what race we are, what tribe we belong to, or what religion we follow.

The spiritual fact that we are all children of divine Love removes ethnic hatred and the desire for revenge with the realization that all are united through our divine Parent. The Apostle Paul beautifully defined the implications of this fact when he told the Athenians that God had made “of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth ... that they should seek the Lord … and find him” (Acts 17:26, 27).

We find God through obeying what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments, namely, loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The unity of spirit that comes from thinking of others as united in the one divine Mind, and of God as fully accessible to all people, makes it much harder to hate anyone. When each individual becomes our brother or sister, we don’t knowingly antagonize any of them; nor can they be motivated to antagonize us.

Such accomplishments don’t happen in a vacuum, however. If the mental atmosphere is filled with violence and hatred, it can be hard to resist the temptation to follow the crowd or to feel just plain terrified. There’s a wonderful example of protection from hate-filled crowds in Luke’s Gospel. When a mob of people wanted to murder Jesus by throwing him off a hill, the Bible reports that “he passing through the midst of them went his way” (Luke 4:30).

The one Mind is available to guard the residents of Jos from the threats of “the carnal mind” – that which would oppose itself to God (see Rom. 8:7) – and keep them in a safe haven.

This safety may take many different forms, according to the need of the individual. But in each case, divine Mind can and will guide the individual, as he or she listens for and to this guidance.

Our prayers can support the willingness for everyone to obey the inspiration that Mind is continuously sending all people, especially in areas where understanding and reconciliation are needed. Even when the desire to respond with pure human willfulness is strong, this Mind can eliminate selfishness and build bridges of understanding and love.

This spiritual journey may not be a short one, but the most important point is to start and to keep going. Our prayers can support the efforts for peace and understanding in Jos, and everywhere.

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