Today, Pope Francis called on all Catholics, in fact all people interested in peace, to pray for Syria in the wake of the terrible atrocities and death that have visited this cradle of Christianity and which threaten to explode even further in the coming days and weeks.
Those three words: forgiveness, dialogue, and reconciliation are what the Pope said today are the necessary ingredients for true peace. This is true in Syria, the whole Middle East, throughout the world, and in our own individual lives.
Forgiveness is the beginning. Who has hurt you in your life? Everyone has been hurt, and some of that pain has left long-lasting scars, sometimes even open, festering wounds. How do you even begin to consider ever forgiving anyone who has hurt you so deeply?
Consider this: God created you in His image and likeness. He loves you unquestioningly. Yet you still sin. You still deny him, or ignore him, or place your desires above his. He sent his own Son to us, and allowed him to suffer and die for those sins. In doing so, he forgave it all. His only Son paid the price for you.
If God can forgive you after all your sins, and can take such a drastic measure to ensure your redemption, how can you not forgive another weak human being who has fallen short and hurt you?
Dialogue is the next requirement. Once you have decided to truly in your heart forgive someone, you must sit down with them. Let them know just how they hurt you, let them know that you have forgiven them for the pain that you suffered, and tell them that you want to ensure that such hurt and pain never again touches your relationship.
The length and depth of that conversation depends on the closeness of your relationship in the first place. But in some way or form, you must sit down, face directly, and try to communicate personally with the person who hurt you.
Finally, you will truly need to reconcile with that person. You need to be able to walk away from the conversation with the full knowledge that you have fully forgiven them, have expressed the entire situation to them the best you could, and have given them every chance to communicate with you on the issue.
Forgiveness. Communication. Reconciliation. There is a chance that it will be a one-way street. There is a chance that the other party won't acknowledge you, or their actions, or themselves as the cause of your suffering. That's not great, but in the end, that can't be your final goal.
You are the one who needs to forgive. You are the one who must try to communicate, to reach out first to your antagonist. You are the one who needs to be reconciled, both to the other person and their actions, and to yourself.
If you truly forgive, make every effort to communicate, and then find a way to reconcile the relationship, at least in your own heart, then and only then will you have a chance at peace within your life, within your spirit. The same goes for nations.