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`Ethnic Cleansing' - Can It Prevail?

`ETHNIC cleansing", a current euphemism for attempts to annihilate specific populations, is an evil. It is never a solution to conflict, and it cannot prevail, because there is something more powerful at work in the world than prejudice and hate--and that is conscience.

Conscience--the ability to discern and do what is right--is behind every caring and constructive activity in the world. Conscience impels charity, decency, reformation. Conscience holds us to the truth; it is the inner voice that pricks us when it detects a lie. A conscience guided by God, divine Truth, not only condemns ``ethnic cleansing" but conquers it.

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Over a century ago, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was a vigorous proponent of man's inherently spiritual rights. Her study of the Bible convinced her, as she writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience."

Recently when I was deeply troubled about the widespread savagery in the world, I read those words again. One word claimed my attention: conscience. At that moment I saw what it meant to describe conscience as an ``inalienable right"! It's not an option; it's not just for selected individuals, but is given by God to each of His children, whether they call themselves Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, agnostic, atheist.

Then in a flash I saw that mankind's victimizers were instead the pitiful victims of a failure to understand that they, too, could respond to God's pure truth. They were, in a sense, frozen in cold hate, revenge, prejudice. That insight gave direction to my prayers. For the bottom line of ``ethnic cleansing"--indeed, of all evil--is mental. The most penetrating and powerful weapon we can use to help cleanse our world of such evil is prayer, which teaches us what is truly right and good--what is genuinely

in accord with God's law. And when our own conscience is purged and regenerated by a deeper knowledge of God, divine Truth, we are guided by Truth to do whatever is necessary to prevail over ``ethnic cleansing" or any hatred.

As I continued to pray, I began to see more clearly that evil has no legitimate place anywhere in the world. It is negative, empty of spiritual reality. It inevitably moves to its own destruction, as we are seeing in the breakup of oppressive regimes and in the growth of freedom in the world.

My prayers were twofold. First, I thanked God for what He is doing in awakening us to our ``inalienable rights" to good alone and in cleansing us from prejudice and hate. Second, I needed to practice what I prayed; to start, for example, by purging ethnic biases out of my own thought and behavior. Thus, when I saw a critical and ethnically-biased letter in our local newspaper, for example, I responded in a constructive and healing way.

Isn't this following the example of Christ Jesus, the great Teacher of man's divine rights? He said to his disciples, John's Gospel tells us, ``These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. There is great joy in knowing and following God's law. And there is well-being, as I found when I strove to live more fully in accord with what the Bible--particularly in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount--teaches us is right. As we continue to be

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guided by Truth in our daily lives, we will see more evidence of good conscience being expressed throughout the world.

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