Safety amid violent conflict

Today’s contributor reflects on what comforted, inspired, and kept him safe during a dangerous time in Northern Ireland.

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People around the world have been galvanized into considering what can be done to face up to both gun crime and terrorism. Young folk have been energized to march in cities demanding action. Leaders and organizations have advocated for various solutions.

Amid the important conversations taking place along those lines, I’ve found there is great value in another way to consider safety and protection. Recent events have returned my thought to the dark days of what were euphemistically termed “the Troubles,” during the late 20th century in Northern Ireland, when thousands were killed and thousands more injured. Personally, I was held at gunpoint twice and several stores I owned were bombed. I am grateful to have survived those years.

What brought me comfort and, I believe, protected me was a desire to better understand what could be termed God’s laws of safety and protection. Almost every day I prayed with ideas contained in the Bible such as this one: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

This and similar ideas helped me daily to diminish my fears, because they gave me a spiritual sense of conviction that God’s love embraces us all, and that I could feel that love cloaking me in a mantle of protection. This conviction can be hard to reconcile with what we see going on in the world. But I came to comprehend that when we look deeper, we find that everyone’s real identity is the reflection of God, who is boundlessly good, and we begin to discern and know that goodness at all times. When that sense of spiritual good is bright in our consciousness, it helps brighten the world around us.

As I prayed, I began to realize that if God’s presence is unbounded, then the kingdom of God is unbounded, or as Christ Jesus said, at hand (see Luke 21:31). So anything that tries to deprive us of health or safety is not from God, and therefore has no power. This light of God’s presence, the forever presence of Love, comes to us as we receptively open our hearts to it. This is what increasingly gave me that sense of protection during this trying and dangerous time.

When we’re open to the spiritual fact of God’s care for us, we’re naturally receptive to inspiration that keeps us safe. Two examples of this are especially vivid in my recollection.

In one case, a man set up a fruit stall against a steel barrier that the army and police had erected to shut off side streets right beside my main office. On returning to the office after a quick lunch, I noticed the man wasn’t standing there. A thought came to me strongly to look in the rear of the stall. When I did, in that split second, I saw a bomb there.

With the help of passersby and the police, we cleared the area, and when the bomb exploded, no one was injured. I believe it was an increasing sense of good as more powerful than the evil we may face that opened my thought to this intuition, which brought me and others safety.

Another time, I had set out on foot for a meeting about four hundred yards from my office. I had not gone very far when there came a clear conviction that I should not proceed. I turned around. About five minutes later a truck bomb exploded in the street where I would have been at that time.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, writes in “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany”: “Mankind will be God-governed in proportion as God’s government becomes apparent, the Golden Rule utilized, and the rights of man and the liberty of conscience held sacred” (p. 222). We can each play a role in countering crime by turning consistently to God in prayer, listening for the guidance of that divine Mind, and acknowledging the divine protection that everyone has access to.

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