An ancient Greek myth tells the story of Pandora, created by the gods to be the first woman in the world. She was made as a source of revenge on a man who had obtained fire from Prometheus. To Pandora was given a box she was expressly forbidden to open. Finally curiosity got the better of her and she opened this box, thus releasing all the ills that beset humanity. Terrified of what her disobedience had caused, she slammed the box shut.
Today the world in which we live seems to be beset with all the ills released from Pandora’s box such as disease, hunger, hopelessness and cruelty. All around we see the results of greed, envy, hatred, selfishness, prejudice, intolerance and lust for power, enforced by weapons that have been manufactured to achieve dominion over people within one’s own country, or to demoralise and dominate other bordering countries. Genocide, such as the holocaust within Germany, Poland and neighbouring countries during the 1940s, has been repeated within both Europe and Asia in recent years. Rightwing religious beliefs have been imposed on Arab nations and individual liberties for women are denied. No longer do women have the right to learning, to drive cars and to pursue industries outside their own households.
With elements of the world around us continually in conflict, how are we able to live at peace? Surely it is in God’s plan for all to live in peace. Humanity has still to learn the lesson of living peaceably.
The story of Pandora’s box does not end with her closing the lid of the box after all the ills affecting the world had been let loose. Indeed it continues thus:
From within the box, Pandora heard a small sweet voice ask, “Pandora, can you please release me?” A beautiful sprite with gossamer wings flew shimmering into the sunlight. Round and round her body the creature flew, lighting only when a sore was encountered. As the creature touched the hurt – it was gone. When Pandora had been healed completely the creature flew to heal Epimetheus, the first created male. Pandora sat back against the box and thought. Hope, she was certain that was the creature’s name, continued her healing. She smiled a soft smile for knowing there is hope, and hope is sometimes enough.
As Christians we believe there is yet hope for our world. As those Jesus left behind to carry out the work of God’s dominion, we have inherited tools for change. No matter what our doubts, God’s promises stand firm, and we hear the answer to our concerns. Some of the questions we may ponder are: How can one woman, or a group of people from any global community, make a difference to world politics and ideals? Would there be any point in seeking out and facing Taliban leaders to ask that they cease their obvious scheme to destabilise Pakistan, permit women to have equal rights with their menfolk and to renounce torture? In what ways can we impact upon a world that seems determined to destroy itself as conflicts continue to arise and grievances are never properly resolved?
Many of us who are Christians need to address these matters firstly within our own lives – in our thoughts, words and actions. If we truly seek to live peaceably in a world that has forsaken peace, then we must put aside all judgements concerning the words or actions of others, all thoughts of revenge and any lack of forgiveness. Instead we must seek the peace that comes only by living a life of unconditional love. We can join together in person, or by phone or the internet, and ask for God’s blessings on those nations in which there is no peace. I have belonged to an international, internet group of women who are both lesbians and Christians for over ten years, and we have witnessed the changes made by faithful prayer. When we have agreed to pray for help or healing, our prayers have been answered. If we seek global peace, whether if it is achieved suburb by suburb or country by country, we may choose to pray as individuals within a group, holding fast to the hope provided by Christ.
For those who are unable to pray, try meditation. Find a quiet place, and closing your eyes, visualise the world surrounded by pale rose pink – a healing colour. Visualise all thoughts of war – conquest, hatred and greed, lust for power and control – leaving the globe as thin wispy dark clouds, and watch healing begin to take place within the nations of the earth. Next, visualise individuals, men, women and children from all the races and nationalities being healed. See the scars of pain, hunger, neglect, cruelty and loss being gently lifted from their memories, and watch the healing begin within their lives. See individuals reaching out to one another sharing whatever they have, whatever is needed to satisfy or help the other. See the leaders of the nations also reach out to one another, offering assistance of food, housing materials, medical aid and even sanctuary to those who have been abandoned by their country. Imagine the leaders of all the world’s religions seeking not division, but unveiling the same ideals and beliefs common to all faiths. See the world finally being bathed in gold as healing of the planet and of humanity is accomplished. And believe that what you have visualised will come about – for while hope lives, the whole healed world can become a reality.
In her book, “The Earth Charter in Action,” Mary Evelyn Tucker, professor of religion at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, has written an essay on the preamble to the Charter.
“The Charter suggests that the twenty-first century will be remembered by an extension of our moral concerns not only to humans, but to other species and ecosystems as well. From social justice to ecojustice, the movement of human care is part of ever widening concentric circles.
Indeed the twenty-first century may be remembered as the century in which humans laid foundations for the well-being of the planet as a whole by embracing the Earth Community. The future of life may depend on the largeness of our embrace.”
As individuals what are we choosing to embrace? Are we sharing not only our prayers but also our individual resources? If we know that across the globe, and even in our own country, there are many who are hungry every day and night, who have no place to sleep, and who are denied medical attention, what efforts are we making to embrace them as our brothers and sisters? Are we living the criteria Jesus laid out for each of our lives? Are we feeding those who are hungry, visiting those who are imprisoned – wherever they may be – aiding those who are sick, clothing those with no possessions and offering life-giving pure water to all who thirst? Surely we cannot rest peacefully until we have fulfilled these simple commands. While ever our eyes are fixed on Christ we will know that, no matter how bitter the world’s conflict appears to be, there is still hope. And like Pandora, we too may be able to smile a soft smile knowing there is hope, and hope is sometimes enough.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.