`CEASE-FIRE!'' must be one of the gladdest words in the English language, especially when it comes in the wake of decades of relentless warfare. As it greeted the world on the morning of October 13, even the newsmen could hardly believe what they were reporting from Northern Ireland. To all those who have worked and prayed so long for this moment to come, the feelings run almost too deep for words.
Northern Ireland has long been the stage not only for stories of terrorism and grief, but for scenes of courage, love, and forgiveness of rare purity. These bright flowers of the spirit have helped to lighten the lives of others struggling with violence and warfare. And now hope is becoming reality, as the next steps toward a peaceful solution of the conflict are undergirded with a commitment to peace on both sides.
Why does peace not come sooner when hearts are crying out for it? What brings about the conditions in which a cease-fire can hold? The words of a little boy from Belfast some years ago hint at an answer. As I recall he was attending a new school at which Protestants and Roman Catholics were being educated together. Asked by a television interviewer what he thought about the situation, his reply was simple. It went something like this: ``Well, before you might have thought about picking up a stone to throw at the other person, but when you're sitting next to him in school you think, Why bother?''
The enemy had become the neigh-bor. The stone of enmity flies only from the hand of one still living in a self-circumscribed prison of fear and ignorance. Once ``me'' becomes ``we,'' the center can become the one on whom we mutually depend--God who is good. Within this all-inclusive circle communication is possible which before seemed out of the question. We lay down arms when our circle of love expands to include all mankind. This is the love of God Himself in immediate expression.
This year has seen many wonders, including the end of apartheid in South Africa. The circumstances that divided that nation for so long appeared as utterly insurmountable as those that have plagued Northern Ireland all these years. Yet the solution has not come through one side ``winning,'' but by the discovery of a unifying spiritual bond that was greater than the force trying to divide. Progress has resulted from including rather than excluding those who were formerly opponents. Isn't this what Paul was referring to when he wrote in his letter to the Galatians, ``There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus'' (3:28).
The spiritual progress that a cease-fire demands takes courage; but courage born of God, universal Love, heals. The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, as a devoted follower of Christ Jesus, understood this and lost no opportunity to teach her students and followers the way to disarm conflict through the power of divine Love.
Looking ahead into this century, she foresaw the collision of mental forces and the overturning that would follow. She writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Marvels, calamities, and sin will much more abound as truth urges upon mortals its resisted claims; but the awful daring of sin destroys sin, and foreshadows the triumph of truth. God will overturn, until `He come whose right it is''' (p. 223). It was her vision of the nature of Truth--the nature of God as infinite, divine Love, and of man as His child, His idea made in His image--that also inspired her poem ``The New Century.'' She writes:
'Tis writ on earth, on leaf and
Love hath one race, one realm,
Dear God! how great, how good
To heal humanity's sore heart;
To probe the wound, then pour
A life perfected, strong and calm.
The dark domain of pain and sin
Surrenders--Love doth enter in,
And peace is won, and lost is vice:
Right reigns, and blood was not
(Poems, p. 22)