Jesus speaking: “‘So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others'” –John 13:34-35 (The Voice translation).
Boko Haram. ISIS. Syria. Gaza. Russia vs. Ukraine. Ferguson. Our world looks bleak.
Boko Haram continues to kill and kidnap people in African villages with no apparent end to their terror. More than 200 Nigerian girls remain missing. Some of the original 276 kidnapped girls have died. Some, the abductors reportedly have married off. After their abduction in May, hope for their release or rescue diminishes by the day. How many of us continue to remember them? Because no new activity in the story appears to happen, our news has moved on to more current stories.
The terror group, ISIS, has become more powerful than we imagined. In America, we don’t believe that they can make good on their threats … yet … but adding them to the many disturbances in the Middle East certainly complicates our world.
President Putin and his bold attacks presumably to take over Ukraine border on insanity. Especially when we remember it all started under the shadow of the Olympics. Seriously? The one time in 4 years when all the world’s countries celebrate camaraderie and goodwill? As your country hosted said athletic events? That seemed like a good time for you to invade another country?
Ferguson, MO, and all it represents. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the 1960s. Have the last 50 years of civil rights changed nothing in the hearts of our countrymen? I have no idea about the legality of the matters in MO, TX, AZ (with the profiling of hispanic people) and all the other places that racial prejudice seems to influence the laws and courts. But, I hope we can all agree that we can do better.
We must do better. But the issues are so global, where do we start?
We start with ourselves. We learn to grow up and act like adults, regardless of how anyone else acts. We learn to forgive and show grace–not because anyone who slights us deserves it, but because we deserve to live without the baggage of bitterness. We need to realize that we are not big enough to handle the world’s problems on our own … nor are we able to handle our own problems by ourselves. Part of the problem in our world is our own arrogance. Embracing humility and admitting that we don’t have the capacity as human beings to fix global terrorism and hatred without the help of God is a good first step. In all of human history, we have not figured out how to live peaceably with other cultures. Isn’t it time to confess that we don’t have it in us to figure it out? But, maybe if we actually pray and contemplate the sacred teachings of God, we may feel more peace within ourselves–and if more and more people live peacefully with themselves, perhaps more and more of the world’s cultures will live at peace with each other.
We give up the ‘us vs. them’ mentalities. Peace doesn’t happen because one side proves itself ‘right’ and the other side ‘wrong.’ Peace unveils itself when we concern ourselves more with understanding and less of jumping to conclusions about situations. Few, if any of us, have enough information to pass judgment on any of the situations in the news. The complexity within the borders of Israel transcend our western ideologies and theologies. Yes, educate ourselves. Yes, read the articles. But, allow ourselves to read opposing viewpoints with an open mind and heart. We may grow and mature in our understanding of all that is at stake. We lack empathy in our world of right and wrong information. We need the stories of real people to help us show compassion to all.
We do our homework. We research rumors and refuse to post inflammatory rhetoric that we have not confirmed. So much of what we get riled up about has little basis in fact. Educating ourselves and looking for multiple credible sources before passing misinformation on to others will go a long way in curbing revenge-seeking passions in our hearts and minds. Also, we must discuss more of world events and less of Kim Kardashian’s fashion. How many of us still carry a passion for the Nigerian girls who remain missing? How many of us sigh and turn the page looking for a nicer story than ISIS teaching children how to behead people? If we don’t insist on action at the global, governmental levels, how does our government of the people, by the people and for the people decide how to prioritize the atrocities taking place?
We look for solutions. Most of us can’t go to the international conflict hotspots (and we have nothing to offer, if we could go); but we can go downtown to the homeless shelters, the soup kitchens, the domestic violence agencies, the animal shelters, the low-income schools, hospice care, the hospitals and volunteer our time and skills. A smile, a kind word, offering hope to someone who sees only hopelessness in life goes a long way in changing our own attitudes toward people in the world, as well as those whom we help. The leaders in those organizations need people who lighten their load. We can give money to ministries and groups who have credibility to affect change within local and international circles. A quick search on the internet lists thousands of reputable sources. Believe that we can make a difference and change our world. Accept that change may take years. Celebrate the small victories–the children that are saved from sex-trafficking, the laws that equalize the rights of all, the countries that educate girls, the leaders who sacrifice so much to negotiate for peace.
Finally, we recognize that we can influence only one person at a time. Global change starts with us and how we treat the person on the street, in the store, or driving in a car down the road. Preaching to myself here. I want peace to all the world’s problems; but I want everyone in my little corner of the world to cater to me. How much more peaceful would I live if my neighbor didn’t practice drums, the person in the store didn’t stand in my way, the guy in the truck didn’t cut me off. All of that brings us back to the beginning of this post. We start with ourselves. I start with me and my attitude toward others–even when I’m right and they are obviously wrong. I take responsibility for how I contribute to the selfishness in the world.
We may or may not end terrorism in our world. But, if we begin to implement some of the things listed in this post, maybe our world will become less scary and terror-focussed. Bridges built between cultures start with humanizing the cultures … one face at a time.
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