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Let Us Pray Like Never Before
And Work At Greater Understanding
As If It Depended On Our Life

By Father Eugene Hemrick

The prophetic words of Mahatma Gandhi that an eye for an eye causes blindness apply not only to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the possible war between Iraq and the United States. All sides involved can’t seem to see themselves sitting down together for a serious discussion on how to work out differences. A frightening age of blindness, hard heartedness and a loss of confidence in dialogue is upon us!

Cries for blood and revenge are raising the very real fear that this will lead to an Armageddon.

What petitions to God should we formulate on behalf of peace?

If lasting peace is to be achieved, we need to pray for a much better understanding on the part of everyone involved. Just as the media gives us daily reports of conflicts and impasses, so should it give a history of what precisely undergirds the conflicts, as well as an in-depth look at the differences between various cultures. We need to grasp the geography of a region, and especially the religious beliefs that play a role in conflicts.

Knowing the history behind a conflict is extremely important because it uncovers root causes. To achieve a balanced view of the present conflicts, we must understand how they first started, and especially their underlying causes. How far back do they go; what ingrained prejudices have been cultivated; how deep is the hatred?

And we need to pray for the wisdom to discern whether we are entering a period in history in which we are fighting religious wars — wars that have been known as the bloodiest in history.

In the recent past, we saw Osama bin Laden passing off terrorism as God's will. Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a religious war? Will a war between Iraq and the U.S. become a religious war? Are these wars over territorial rights; oil, or wars over holy land prized for its religious symbolism and steeped in religious belief? What do we really know about the deep seeded beliefs of Islam, the Jihad and past conflicts between them and the beliefs of Christianity and Judaism? When last have we read a well-written book on these subjects?

In the recent past, revolutions have been stopped through use of the Internet. We need to pray now that we'll be able to use this new technology wisely to bombard each side in the conflict with information about our concerns, hopes and efforts for reconciliation. And we need to pray that we use it to better inform ourselves so we think clearly and act wisely.

Let us pray -- that hearts not harden; that our will to understand never breaks. Let us pray for that wisdom in which we study before we act; that we our selves truly understand the people, who, others tell us, are our enemies; that we form our own opinions and not be formed by public opinion. Let us pray that we never become so insular that only people in our own country are our main concern; and people “over there” are only of concern because they seem to pose a threat.