If you drive across the Sinai Desert on a bus, you will find the colorful fabric of the Bedouin people’s clothes and tents waving in the wind of the sand dunes. The lush oases of the Israeli kibbutz will speak of how generations have transformed that arid region into productive farmland. You will see the city of Jerusalem is teeming with Baha’is, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and Christians on pilgrimage to that city so holy to so many different religions. Riding another bus from the Damascus Gate of the city to Bethlehem, you will experience the tenderness of parents feeding yogurt to their children, and the children peaceful and secure in their parents’ arms.
But the stark reality of the seething undercurrent of the Middle East was brought home to me years ago when walking on the beaches of Tel Aviv. Every 10 minutes military jets pierced the sound of the waves, as they flew reconnaissance at heights so low you could see the pilot.
How can our prayers continue to reinforce the current efforts to bring a workable peace to the region?
One way is to take a mental stand that violence cannot displace humanity’s authority over violence. Waiting for the cycle of violence to stop does little to exercise our God-given authority to say no to violence.
The example of South Africa’s resolve to move forward is valuable. When Nelson Mandela got out of prison, there was more violence in the country than ever before. Yet it did not stop the patient, shared vision of blacks and whites that there could be, and must be, an even greater commitment to correct the ignorance and injustices of the past. It took courage to stay mentally independent of the repetitive thought patterns that had entrapped the country.
To break repetitive thought patterns with new ideas and fresh resolve finds fortification in these verses from the book of Lamentations in the Bible: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (3:22, 23, New King James Version).
Following that joyous promise is the authority to expect practical consequences: “To crush under one’s feet all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the justice due a man before the face of the Most High, or subvert a man in his cause – the Lord does not approve” (Lam. 3:34-36, NKJV).
Jeremiah was writing within the context of the total devastation of the Promised Land after the Babylonian invasion and captivity of the Jews. Left behind were only enough people to keep the farms working. It was a terrible time, and visionaries like Nehemiah and other leaders would be needed to restore normalcy.
Support for the persistence and courage of present-day leaders comes from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, a courageous leader of her own time: “Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 571).
That confidence is echoed in the promise of God given to Abraham when Abraham was initially told to go to the Promised Land: "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed
(Gen. 12:2-3, NKJV).
This is the hope of civilization – that God’s blessing on one nation promises the blessing of all the families. This is the basis of resolve, not only for the Middle East, but every troubled corner of the globe.
The one God of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity has the supreme authority to govern His own creation through the divine law of harmony. It is that power that undergirds peacemaking in the Middle East – God causing God’s children to know themselves as family.
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