The Common Good

Afghanistan: Praying Our Part

The decision has been made. The orders have been signed. The first wave of the 30,000 additional warriors heading to Afghanistan is scheduled to arrive before Christmas. President Obama has made a difficult and controversial decision. In his speech at West Point, the president asked for unity. We may not agree on the wisdom of the strategy, but we can agree that we want the war over. We can agree that we want to see the end of useless violence wherever we find it. We can agree to do our part.

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It is a mistake to think that we cannot defeat violence. It is not an inherent character trait of humanity. It is not encoded in human DNA. We can decide. The World Health Organization tells us that violence is preventable. When we think of it as a health issue, we can identify risk factors that cause violence. When we address the risk factors, we can reduce the violence. Economic inequality on all levels is a major risk factor for violence. Complacency is another.

As people of faith, we have to be careful that a theology of fallen humanity does not make us self-satisfied, self-righteous, and smug regarding the human condition. Our faith requires us to do our part to bring the realm of heaven on earth. This means we have work to do to end violence. We can begin by exercising the power of prayer.

Biblical wisdom says: "First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4). We can do our part through prayer for our leaders that they may make wise decision regarding war, health care, climate change, and all the other difficult issues facing us. We can stand on the promise where God says: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

We humble ourselves through fasting (Psalm 35:13). When we fast and pray, the hunger reminds us to pray and prayer helps us to hold the fast. Fasting also helps us to disrupt our routine long enough to remember God and to do an inventory of our own habits that may be part of the problem we hope to solve. World change begins with personal renewal. World peace begins with personal peace.

For years, peace activists have been fasting on Fridays for world peace. Some of us are fasting on Wednesdays for the end to local and global violence. Let us join these efforts in solidarity with our warriors and peace workers. Let us fast and pray for our leaders. This is our sacrifice. This is our part.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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