I spend about half of each year in Russia, and while my apartment is located in a city far away from Volgograd, my lack of proximity to that city does not diminish my concern for the people living there as well as the thousands of visitors who will soon be arriving. The Olympic Games are fast approaching, and people living in Russia, as well as the world athletic community, are focused on and concerned about this southern region of Russia.
After the terrorist attacks in Volgograd last week, which killed and injured many innocent people, quite a few media reports began exploring the possible reasons behind those attacks. A few of the possibilities offered included the need to seek revenge for past atrocities committed against the attackers’ ethnic or religious groups, a feeling of disenfranchisement within their nation, as well as a sense of despair and hopelessness in the face of longstanding political and religious problems.
Many people, myself included, ask themselves if there is anything they can do to help change the troubled situation. History is full of such challenges, but giving in to hopelessness in the face of such issues is never the answer. Hopelessness leads to the destructive emotions of helplessness, envy, self-righteousness, hate, malice, and a desire for revenge. But those kinds of emotions are not capable of improving our immediate lives, much less building a better world.
It’s easy to believe that the actions of a single person can’t possibly change the world, and we may think that all we can do is accept the situation. Yet history is full of wonderful examples of individuals who refused to give in to despair or helplessness. Speaking on the subject of despair, Nelson Mandela said, “I am an optimist.... Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death” (“Time Life Books: Commemorative Life – Nelson Mandela,” p. 7).
The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, was an individual who understood that despair and violence are not building blocks for creating peace and unity. She also understood the power of each individual, when guided by God’s goodness, to contribute to transforming our world into a place where freedom and equality exclude no one but embrace each individual with hope for a bright future.
Mrs. Eddy stated: “Your influence for good depends upon the weight you throw into the right scale. The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable. 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). Later in the same book, referring to the United States, she wrote: “The history of our country, like all history, illustrates the might of Mind [God], and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking. A few immortal sentences, breathing the omnipotence of divine justice, have been potent to break despotic fetters and abolish the whipping-post and slave market; but oppression neither went down in blood, nor did the breath of freedom come from the cannon’s mouth. Love is the liberator” (p. 225).
“Love is the liberator.” Those inspired words remind us that we each have an important role to fill in changing our world for the better. As we individually and collectively choose to follow Christ Jesus’ example and let love and all that it includes – humanity, respect, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and temperance – fill our hearts, we will begin hourly and daily to express more of these healing attributes in our lives. Thoughts and actions that proceed from these wholly good motives will dissolve the willfulness and fear that fuel the destructive violence of terrorism.
The closing stanza of this inspiring song of peace reiterates her thought and reminds us that we can each help defeat terrorism:
Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally!
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!
(Jill Jackson and Sy Miller, "Let There Be Peace on Earth")
As each of us chooses to take this “solemn vow,” together we will begin to see terrorism end, and begin living in a peaceful world.