I spend almost half of every year in Russia and frequently visit Moscow, where I regularly travel on its subways. I have many friends in Moscow, and I love praying to support the ongoing efforts to improve daily life there and throughout Russia.
Monday morning I was shocked, and had to fight a sense of grief and horror, when I learned about the suicide bombings that took place in Moscow’s subway system. But I knew that letting those emotions reign in my thoughts would do little to ameliorate the situation or help others overcome the same sense of grief and fear that seemed so palpable right then.
As single individuals, perhaps we can’t solve the immediate political and cultural issues that give rise to such destructive acts of terrorism around the world. But we can do something vitally important – we can let compassion transform our own thoughts, desires, and actions. Like ripples in a pond, our thoughts are far-reaching. They touch the lives of others and bear witness to the power of divine Love in action in our world.
I saw a beautiful little example of the healing effect of compassion – our unbiased love and efforts to understand our fellow man – take place in August 2000. My husband and I were visiting friends in Moscow when a bomb exploded in a busy underground passageway in the center of the city, just as people were heading home from work.
The city was in a frenzy to help those in need, reestablish order, and find the perpetrators. The attack had been carried out by people from the Caucasus, and everywhere, those who looked as if they might be from that region were being stopped and their documents examined.
The next morning, we needed to take the train into the city center. Fear was on the faces of so many people. As my husband, my Russian friend, and I boarded the train, a man of Caucasus ethnicity boarded, too. Everyone began to move away from him – some people even left the car – and he sat alone, looking isolated and miserable.
I began to pray. I didn’t want to accept the notion that our ethnicity, culture, or religion could define or limit our ability to express our God-given goodness. My friend whispered, “Aren’t you afraid of him?” When I answered, “No!” she replied, “How can you not be afraid? He’s from the Caucasus!”
We began to talk about God’s great love for us, His goodness, and omnipresence, and how we are each able to express those qualities in our lives. I shared with her that I loved remembering how Jesus taught that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). To me that means that God’s goodness, compassion, and uprightness are an innate part of every individual and, just as important, that through our own gentleness and compassion we can help everyone discover their own essential goodness.
Suddenly my friend leaned closer and whispered, “Marie, everyone’s listening to you!” I looked up and discovered that she was right. They had not only been listening, but they were also relaxing. Some nodded at me and smiled. People began moving closer to the isolated man, and the entire atmosphere on our train changed. It was only a small incident in that huge city, but it touched the people in that train car and helped them find peace.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, prayed daily for our world. She longed to see the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people and nations reflected more brightly in our daily affairs. She wrote a simple prayer and requested that the members of the church she established use it daily to pray for themselves and our world. People of all faiths can unite in this timeless prayer: “ ‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (“Church Manual,”p. 41 ).
As we individually and collectively strive to let peace reign in our own thoughts, and allow our affections to deepen, broaden, and begin to encompass the world, we’ll see the seeds of terrorism begin to wither and decay. The outward rippling effect of our compassion will help bring understanding to our international and cross-cultural relationships, and we’ll see the light of peace transforming our lives.
Click here for a Russian translation of this article.