January 2020. Once again the signs are ominous. On January 3, 2020, under the orders of U.S. President Donald Trump, a U.S. drone strike assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. This act has escalated the tensions between the United States and Iran, increasing the risk of further strikes and retaliations across the Middle East.

S&P put together the following collection of readings, films, practices, and prayers during a similar tense time in 2007. Scroll down to use these resources. (Photo above from recommended Iranian film Children of Heaven.)

February 2007. The signs are ominous. Saber rattling from the Bush Administration about a "firm response" if Iran does not stop its nuclear program. A mention in President George Bush's State of the Union address that terrorist groups in Iraq are taking direction from "the regime in Iran." A New York Times article that U.S. intelligence services say the most deadly bomb being used against American troops in Iraq is made in Iran. Bush talking on TV about the need to "seek out and destroy" support networks for the radical Shia groups in Iraq. Administration sources building a case that other alternatives for Iran (diplomacy, sanctions) are not working. Talk that "all options" must remain on the table. Reports that Bush has asked the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up plans to bomb Iran. U.S. aircraft carriers, loaded with Patriot missiles, in place in the Persian Gulf. Supplies, equipment, and personnel being moved to new U.S. bases along the Black Sea, within striking distance of Iran. An order to double the strategic oil reserves.

The projections on what could happen with an attack on Iran are, to put it mildly, absolutely terrifying: the use of nuclear weapons by several nations; the death of thousands, if not millions, from radiation poisoning in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and elsewhere; massive retaliation against American troops in Iraq and civilians in Israel; outrage against America in the global community; the collapse of the world economy; and an increase in terrorism.

Administration claims that they are not going to attack Iran are reminiscent of all the talk during the buildup to the Iraq invasion that the U.S. would simply "shock and awe" the Iraqis into surrender. And all of that begs the question: Why do nations continue to insist that military action is the way to secure peace? A surge of troops into Baghdad will not secure the country and bring peace to the land. An air attack on Iran will not deter violent forces in that country or elsewhere. What we need is a peace surge, all the people of the world working together to create the attitudes and actions that will bring lasting peace.

This is the first new "Spiritual Literacy in Wartime" feature we've done in a long time. But in our view, we are living in the scariest moment since the Cuban missile crisis when the world was carried to the brink of nuclear war in a confrontation between the United States and Russia. The difference is that there is still time for citizens and their representatives to stop this descent into violence and destructiveness. So this week we are asking you to read, practice, and act to create a peace surge. We'll explore the other part of this process, creating inner peace to enable you to keep up your activism, in the weeks ahead.


Deepak Chopra on Seven Practices for Peace
Bestselling author Deepak Chopra lays out a seven-day program for peacemakers: being for peace, thinking for peace, feeling for peace, speaking for peace, acting for peace, creating for peace, and sharing for peace.

Peace Is the Way: A Collection of Inspirational Quotations for Peacemakers
A. J. Muste, the Christian pacifist who died on this day (February 11) in 1967, declared "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." He and many others are quoted in this collection, originally assembled on the day before the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan.


A good story that reveals universal human emotions encourages the development of empathy. We have long felt that anyone who has seen the films about children coming out of contemporary Iran would question any public policy that puts them — or any other group of children — in danger. We encourage you to rent the DVDs or stream these movies. They may be the closest you can get to seeing daily life from the perspective of a child in the Middle East.

Children of Heaven. You know the phrase often used to describe empathy — walking in another's shoes. This movie couldn't be more on theme! When nine-year-old Ali loses the shoes of his younger sister Zahra, the two children have to share one pair of worn-out sneakers — she wears them to school in the morning; he wears them in the afternoon. Watching these children, we can empathize with their faithfulness to each other and their determination to make do despite difficulty.

The White Balloon. Razieh, a determined seven-year-old, has her heart set on purchasing a goldfish for the New Year's celebration. But after she finally talks her mother into giving her the money, she drops the bill down a grate on the way to the market. As she goes through a variety of emotions — surprise, frustration, despair, hope — we find that we are caught up in her dilemma and recognize what she is feeling.

The Color of Paradise. Eight-year-old Mohammad is blind and unloved by his widowed father, a poor coal worker. The boy has learned to make the most of his situation by tuning in to his senses and appreciating the little blessings of life — a walk in a field of flowers, listening for the call of a bird. Mohammad sees with the eyes of his heart, and watching his story, we find that we are doing the same thing. This is the essence of empathy.


Prayers and Meditations for Wartime: "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world," wrote theologian Karl Barth. Start here for six groups of prayers, gathered from all traditions, that acknowledge our brokenness, ask for mercy and forgiveness, evoke our compassion and hope, and more. Use a different one every day to raise a mighty chorus of prayer.

Visit Iran Today Use this slideshow to practice your connection with the people and places of Iran. Here are pictures of Iranians and people from elsewhere doing parallel things. It is set to the song "Peace Train" by Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens). This is what could be destroyed by a bombing campaign.

Peace Prompts from John Dear: In Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action, peace and nonviolence activist John Dear calls us to become peacemakers "within our own broken hearts and broken families, in our bloody city streets and corrupt government offices, in the war zones and refugee camps." We've picked out twelve passages from this book that can be used as "peace prompts."

Bang Your Pots and Pans: In her last column before her death from breast cancer, progressive Molly Ivins urged Americans to take to the streets to protest the war in Iraq: "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. . . . We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!' " Eric Herter in another article published on CommonDreams.org wants us to take the protest further and use our pots and pans to raise awareness of the planned attack on Iran. Then contact your Senators and Representative to oppose any attack on Iran and not to fund it.