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This article appeared in the December 04, 2017 edition of the Monitor Daily.


A Christian Science Perspective

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Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

A victory over community violence

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In a certain South African community, competition among corrupt taxi owners escalated to fatal violence toward passengers. This was not what the leaders of the two taxi franchises wanted, but criminal elements involved prevented them from meeting face to face to address the issue. When Christian Scientist Martine Blackler learned of this, she realized she did not need to accept the situation in her community as inevitable and could trust in God’s goodness. Division or violence is not part of God’s plan for us. Soon the chief executive officer of one of the taxi franchises – a regular customer at Ms. Blackler’s poultry business – reached out to ask if he and the owner of the other taxi franchise could meet at Blackler’s farm, a neutral territory. She agreed and, when they arrived, she insisted that they leave their bodyguards and weapons outside. The meeting was productive, and from then on there was no more taxi violence in that area. There is no place where God’s love for all can’t be felt.

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A victory over community violence

My husband and I run a small poultry business in South Africa. Among the regular customers was a man I shall call Mr. X, who was the chief executive officer of a taxi service operating in our community.

Taxis in South Africa are minibuses that run the length and breadth of the country. There were two very large operators of these taxis, and competition between them became fierce as the government has never put in place any government-owned or government-run bus service to allow people in rural areas access to public transport.

This opened the door wide to corrupt taxi owners to cash in on this need for transport. Taxi wars, as they were called, became violent, with passengers being pulled out of their taxis and being attacked or even killed for supporting the “wrong” taxi franchise. Things escalated to such an extent that I spoke to Mr. X and asked him what was being done to rectify the violent situation.

He told me that criminal elements had taken the law into their own hands, and were enforcing their own agenda on taxi passengers, but that this was never what he or Mr. Y (the operator of the other taxi franchise) wanted. Unfortunately, because of the criminal element involved, they could never meet face to face to sort it all out as it was very dangerous for both of them.

I sat and thought about all this. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10), and I’ve found it helpful to practice this spiritual stillness whenever I hear disturbing reports like these. As I prayed, it came to me not to accept this situation as inevitable. My understanding of the nature of God is that God is ever present, and that there is no place where God’s love is not felt or where God is not governing us, His spiritual creation, harmoniously. Nothing unlike good – including division or violence – is God’s plan for us.

A week later Mr. X contacted me to ask if it would be possible to hold a meeting at my farm, between himself and Mr. Y, to reach a possible solution. He asked that no one be told. It was a neutral venue, and he felt it was right to meet here. I accepted without really knowing what was about to come through my gates.

On the appointed day, along came several vehicles bearing Mr. X and several heavily armed bodyguards with semiautomatic weapons, and Mr. Y, also with several heavily armed men. This was not what I had agreed to! I said the two men could come in and talk as much as they wanted, but the weapons and bodyguards had to stay outside my fence.

The two men accepted my demand, and the others, and their weapons, remained outside. More important, I allowed only the consciousness of God’s presence and power to enter my thought. I sat and prayed silently, in spiritual stillness, knowing that God had inspired this meeting and that His word would be heard. The Lord said of His word, “It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please” (Isaiah 55:11). It had to produce a good result.

The two men spoke at length all day, and eventually left late in the afternoon. They thanked me and said it had been productive. From that day forward no more taxi violence was seen in our area. Later I learned there had been an agreement signed, and that the criminal elements had ended.

I sometimes wonder if we realize just how powerful our prayers can be to bring greater peace and genuine progress to our world. Let’s take every opportunity we can to witness their effect in our own homes and communities. Although we may not always see the outcome of our prayers so directly, they are always having a leavening influence.

Adapted from an article in the July 10, 2017, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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This article appeared in the December 04, 2017 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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