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Commentary : Conflict Still Far Too Prevalent

March 30, 1991|D. BRUCE MacPHERSON | MacPherson is assistant to the Episcopal Church bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese and the new president of the Southern California Ecumenical Conference. and

As I reflect on the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, I think about Muslims and Jews here at home and in the troubled Middle East.

It is difficult to think of this as being a time of "aftermath" when there is continued conflict. One cannot read day in and day about the atrocities and loss of lives and still think that finding a meaningful peace is someone else's problem.

We must go beyond our typical reflections during Easter, Passover and Ramadan to figure out how we as individuals and religious communities can help ensure that peace.

What healing words should be said? Should we the communities of faith ignore the vast numbers of Iraqi deaths? Should we celebrate the minimal loss American lives and the prestige of having crushed the enemy on the ground in just 100 hours?

If we are serious about offering healing words, we must focus not just on ourselves as Christians. Rather, we must reach out to all of God's people. This must be done through prayer and dialogue.

Where do we the Christian community begin?

As individuals we must be more open and respectful of others. It is necessary to understand and accept positions held by others in order to find something that is universally acceptable. As varying religious communities, we must work collectively on the issue of peace, while not just looking our for ourselves.

We need to be mindful that we are called to be peacemakers and that war is a terrible and last resort. Christ told us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9). The psalmist David told us that peacemakers are those who "seek peace, and pursue it." (Psalm 34:14)

The peace we seek means more than just the absence of conflict and war. It must include personal and social well being and a sense of love and concern for one another. The coming of the Christ child was accompanied by the angelic declaration of "peace on Earth," and Jesus frequently spoke of peace and peacemaking.

In the aftermath of this war we are reminded to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44). The prophet Isaiah tells us that the day of the Lord is peace, and through his judgment strong nations will be curbed and the reason for war removed.

As a result of increased dialogue we can become a world at peace where precious metals and advanced technology are used for the improvement of life rather than for war.

The dividing walls of hostility are broken down when we, the Christian community are willing to love our enemies and to make peace with people of other faiths, people whose views are different than ours.

Those who seek peace by loving their enemies and those whose views are different are doing as God himself does. When we find ourselves able to respect one another and to hold one another up before God in prayer we will see one another as children of God--a children of God who belong together as one human family.

It is in these healing words that we will find the inspiration and power to seek out a pathway which leads to peace for all. This is not wishful thinking; it is a way of life lived in keeping with the will of God for his children.

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