I don't know about you, but I have been deeply troubled by what seems to be an unraveling of the world around us in so many different hot spots.
Just to name a few:
1. The escalation of violence in Ukraine, including the shooting down of a passenger airline with the loss of all passengers on board
2. The continuing loss of life and violence in Gaza and Israel
3. The rise of a radical Islamic group, the Islamic State, that is seizing land in Syria and Iraq and is especially ruthless in its dealings with Christians and other religious groups such as the Yazidi
4. The troubles in our own country in Ferguson, Mo., which is reminiscent of the riots of the 1960s, which many of us thought were a thing of the past
Such activities can only be considered discouraging. It is easy to feel depressed and to feel that we are dealing with situations that are basically hopeless. Yet the possibility of making at least some limited progress in each of these crises does exist. We are even seeing some glimmers of hope.
In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin seems to be toning down his rhetoric. There appears to be less likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It appears that actual negotiations are taking place between Israelis and Palestinians in Egypt that could lead to a more lasting settlement than a series of temporary cease-fires.
In northern Iraq, the United States has effectively deterred the advance of the Islamic State toward the city of Irbil for the moment. They have also eliminated the worst of the crisis impacting the Yazidis who had been trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Even the long-standing effort to get Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign has borne fruit.
Finally, in Ferguson, cooler heads in government and the community are now working together to avoid further violence.
None of these problems are even close to being totally resolved. There is certainly the possibility that situations in any one of these cases could once again worsen. No magic bullet exists for resolving any of these crises.
Yet we have seen real but limited progress in each case. I believe the progress is due to thoughtful and restrained leadership moving the process forward, however gradually. While the use of force cannot always be excluded, it needs to be used, as it has been in Iraq, to protect and defend innocent lives rather than to gain some kind of advantage at the expense of others.
I think we should be thankful for all those in government, the faith community, and other organizations who are working for peace and striving to find solutions to our differences. I believe those who are advocating the use of force or are seeking the escalation of any of these conflicts are leading us in the wrong direction.
It is a messy world, but I think that is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."
They may not find all that they hope for today, but they are truly blessed as they continue to work toward peace and harmony each day. We should never cease praying for their success and contributing to their efforts in any way we can.
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