This is one world. But what does that mean in wartime? Do we ignore the differences that have set peoples against each other and nature? Do we live in denial about the very real dangers affecting us all? If we turn away from the reality of conflict (one-fourth of the world's countries experienced armed conflict in 2002), are we tacitly ignoring the suffering of the victims of violence?
We hold dear in our hearts the ideal of one world community living in peace and harmony. But our guts — and news reports — give us a different message. If we are here, as Buddhist peacemaker and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh tells us, "to awaken from the illusion of our separateness," what does that mean on a practical day-to-day basis?
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other," Mother Teresa wrote. Our readings this week ask you to work with what it means to truly belong to each other:
Thich Nhat Hanh on True Safety
Many of us are conflicted at the moment because we do not feel safe. It's one thing to believe in the unity of all peoples; it's another to have terrorists threatening to kill us. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that there is safety in numbers. We will feel secure only when we operate out of a worldview that acknowledges the rights of everyone in our one world to be safe. As usual, this spiritual teacher starts with the most basic steps — how we breath and how we relate to those closest to us — and then moves out to discuss international security.
Prayer is one way to reinforce unity in our world, but our prayer, and the attitudes we bring to prayer, must be all-inclusive. This reading and the next one describe practices that force us to confront our very natural tendency to want to pray for those with whom we agree, who are on "our side." Even these walls must come down.
- Ram Dass on Loving Everyone
Ram Dass recalls how difficult he found it to follow his spiritual teacher's advice that he "love everyone." He decided to work on it by focusing his attention daily on Casper Weinberger, then U.S. Secretary of Defense. This, we can assure you, is a very difficult and powerful practice. Choose your own "Casper."
- Jane Vennard on Holding Someone Up to the Love of God
The second practice is suggested in a new book by Jane Vennard, Embracing the World: Praying for Justice and Peace. When it is hard to articulate prayers for an enemy, do it nonverbally. Simply hold that person up to God's love. Vennard shares what happened when a seminarian tried this kind of prayer for Osama bin Laden.
Choose one of these practices and try it this week. Pay attention to any feelings, associations, and resistances that emerge from your practice. You may want to keep a "Spiritual Literacy in Wartime" journal and write your reflections on the readings and your experiences with the practices. Or find a spiritual friend with whom you can discuss the work.
If you want more articles, spiritual practices, and resources, check out the "Unity" practice page here.