To look at the situation in Syria and Egypt today is to find oneself wondering if there is any hope for peace and democracy in those two countries as well as in other Arab Spring nations that have taken the brave step toward democratic rule but now seem to be faltering. Current discussions about possible Western military intervention in Syria add another level of complexity to the situation.
I refuse to be without hope for the people who live there. I think of how Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, felt after their brother had lain dead in the tomb for four days. For them, all hope was lost. But when Jesus came to them, hope was renewed, and Lazarus walked out of the tomb (see John 11:1-45). The same hope can be sustained for democracy and justice for the people of Egypt and Syria. Law can be restored, and peace can prevail.
Does that seem impossible? Consider the children of Israel standing on the brink of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels. All hope seemed lost, and yet – the waters parted.
The writer of the book of Hebrews in the Bible recounts many other examples of individuals who went forward with a conviction that God would help them. He wrote, “[W]hat more shall I say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong” (Hebrews 11:32-34).
“Out of weakness were made strong.” The political elements in Egypt and Syria are so complex that we can’t predict what the solution will be, but we can pray that the forces of good “out of weakness” can be “made strong.” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: “Moral and spiritual might belong to Spirit, who holds the ‘wind in His fists;’ and this teaching accords with Science and harmony.... Evil is not power. It is a mockery of strength, which erelong betrays its weakness and falls, never to rise” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 192).
“Moral and spiritual might” are greatly needed in both areas, and they are actually already present, because God, divine Spirit, is with His people – all people. Our prayers can insist on this spiritual fact, and also affirm that divine justice will prevail. People in those countries have the “moral and spiritual might” to insist on and obtain peaceful solutions.
Our opportunity is to pray on their behalf and to recognize that divine Love can strengthen all who are motivated by love for good, whether it’s for a safe homeland without oppression, the ability to live and work without harassment, or to feel the reality of freedom and honest government.
One of the big challenges in both countries, especially Syria, is to know who is truly on the side of good, and who is taking advantage of conditions in order to gain some political advantage. I find guidance in this statement by Mrs. Eddy: “Falsehood is on the wings of the winds, but Truth will soar above it” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 277). This statement affirms the ability of all to discover the truth regarding the use of chemical weapons – no matter which side has used them – and also to know who is trustworthy in the progress toward peace and who isn’t.
It’s hard not to be transfixed by reports of violence against people of other religions such as the Coptic Christians, and the attacks on members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Then there is the huge number of Syrian refugees, including one million children. Yet the demand to claim God’s presence – right where they are – is vital to our prayers.
In the end, the great demand is to defuse anger with love, to let justice prevail instead of revenge, and to let peace smother the fires of hatred. Is this an easy task? No. But with God all things are possible, and the same God who parted the waters of the Red Sea, who opened the tomb for Lazarus, and has given strength to believers for centuries since those times can do it.