This text was sent in by Reverend Larry Wright who opened our “Healing The Nations” conference on 30th July. The conference is still ongoing and if you wish to join us please use this link.
As a person of faith, ‘healing’ and ‘nations’ are words resonant with meaning, promise and longing, while also evoking concepts to be approached with caution, as their definitions are many and their usage often controversial.
But as a general statement of intent, who would not wish nations and their peoples to be healed?
The question presumes two things. We have an understanding of the malady or illness from which people are suffering and we understand what a nation is. For how can we heal what we cannot describe and whom do we heal if we do not know the patient? To put it in medical terms.
Let’s begin with nation, or nationhood. Any reading of history will soon lead us to understand nations are a relatively recent concept. Ancient history refers to peoples, ethnic groupings, religious cults and empires. Only in recent centuries has the concept of nation states become a feature of political history and geography.
In the ancient texts cherished by my faith, it is empires that dominate the Near and Middle East of our founding stories. For many post-colonial countries their borders and boundaries were fixed by former colonial powers. We see in the changing geography of the last 100 years, nations emerge, separate or succumb to war and defeat. Nations incorporated – willingly or unwillingly- by new imperial conquests and later liberated to pursue their own national self-determination.
Are we seeking healing of nations or between nations? Surly the wise and the good seek to do both. We have nations divided among themselves and at enmity with each other in a globalised and regionalised world. And let us not exclude the possibility of healing between our species and the natural world we inhabit, for without the earth, our one constant source of life giving resources, peoples and nations will inevitably perish.
So what healing is needed? Throughout this conference the sufferings and realities of different countries and regions will be examined and analysed. Their historical, ideological, political and economic complexities scrutinised. Maybe in the course of this conference, new thinking may emerge and new possibilities proposed. However our conversations unfold, may we be watchful we do not rely on addressing only the more obvious expressions of suffering and conflict in our world. Partial claims for political, economic or ideological remedies to humankind’s needs, address the material aspects of our human nature, but we are flesh and spirit, body and soul; however we choose to define this: A remedy which only concentrates upon the body is deficient, a cure which only addresses the soul incomplete. We must strive for integrated and holistic remedies which are both transformative and healing.
But we must begin with ourselves. The ancient Jewish proverb puts it plainly; “Physician heal thyself!” In the recognition of our own need for healing and transformation we begin a journey of self-discovery taking us outward to the world in the full knowledge we are less than we could be while celebrating we are more than we were.
It is a journey from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from self-centred egotism to world embracing compassion, from indifference or resignation to action; for people of faith it is the complete reorientation of our lives towards God.
In a highly medicalised world, we are encouraged to put our faith in medical science to cure human sickness, but there is no pill or procedure for the most serious afflictions of our world: poverty, malnutrition, lack of education, unemployment, environmental degradation, conflict, racism and economic inequality and exploitation. These are the recurring and endemic causes of so much suffering.
To play any meaningful role in the notion of ‘healing the nations’, we must nurture certain values as global concepts: conciliation, justice for all, meaningful and respectful engagement, conflict avoidance, global economic reform and cooperation. Underlying these aspirations must be the recognition of our need for spiritual, moral and religious renewal and reform. Then we will bring to the world’s problems the fullness of our physical and intellectual energies and the transformative power of the spiritual life.
Reverend Larry Wright