Nonstop honking of horns. Incessant banging on pots and pans. This has been the nightly mesmeric din heard from my home in Ankara, Turkey, for almost a week now. Television, Facebook, and Twitter are inundated with reports and images of people throughout Turkey protesting the force used by the police against a peaceful sit-down in Taksim Square.
The demonstrators were protesting the destruction of Gezi Park, the largest green area left in downtown Istanbul, lined with beautiful old trees, for the construction of a shopping mall there. But when the police used tear gas and water cannons against the protesters, the entire country reacted by breaking out in destructive riots.
There is much pent-up anger among secularists in Turkey claiming that the current government of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party has denied basic human rights, such as freedom of expression. There is also fear that the government is sliding from democracy into autocracy – from government by the people to government of the people by one person with absolute authority. There is a vital need to support democracy, minority rights, and the rule of law. These are rooted in God’s law of freedom for His creation. It is also important to guard against legitimate protest being overtaken by anger and fear.
The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 356). But it can seem difficult when negative emotions run high and wild to bring them under control in order to accomplish the goal that’s being pursued. Some sort of outside help is needed. In such situations, we can find this help by exercising the ancient tried and true basic right (which can never be taken away) to go to God in prayer. In spiritual reality, God rules supreme with His omnipotent law of divine Love.
One of the beautiful prayer-psalms recorded in the Bible assures us: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). And Christ Jesus taught the world how to pray by petitioning, “Our Father which art in heaven." This prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, naturally leads us to understand that God is our Father, which means that everyone on this planet is related harmoniously to everyone else – we are all each other’s brother or sister.
When we look at the scene in Taksim Square (or anywhere else that is in upheaval) and see the pent-up anger and fear being released, we can stay calm in our own thought by remembering that everyone is really God’s child. When we know this and put our trust in God, our ever-present refuge and strength, this helps the protesters, police, government officials – everyone – to act just as they should, peacefully, with restraint and goodwill. In a word, with love.
Love for trees started this uprising. Isaiah prophesied that mankind “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks” (Isaiah 2:4). May our mental pruninghooks trim away all anger and fear from our thoughts so that we can love and be loved impartially, just as trees give equal protection to all who seek shade under their branches.
May the cause of the trees in Gezi Park help heal, not divide, the Turkish nation. According to the Bible, “[T]he leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).