Less than a block from my apartment is the Russian embassy for the United Kingdom. There are frequently demonstrations across the street from the embassy: Syrians, Ukrainians, and others demonstrating in response to some particular world problem that involves Russia.
From what I can tell, no one in the embassy pays any attention; I assume those taking part in the demonstrations do so to create public awareness of their issue and to garner support more than to change the minds of the Russian government. But I doubt that the demonstrations have more than a minimal effect on the actual state of things in the world. As citizens of not only our country, but also of the world and as brothers and sisters of those whose lives are destroyed by disaster, war, and civil disruption, we have a solemn duty to do what we can to bring peace to the world. But what can we do?
We cannot each of us serve as diplomats or aid workers, and we ought not to waste our time on public displays that have little or no effect. It is easy to despair of doing anything that can help, but such despair is mistaken. There are at least two things that we can do which will have positive effects.
Our sincere petitions to our Heavenly Father can bless lives, even of those whom we do not know
It is important not to underestimate the power of fasting and prayer. Our sincere petitions to our Heavenly Father can bless lives, even of those whom we do not know. Our fasting and prayer should be not only for ourselves, our family, and friends, but also for those in Sierra-Leone and Liberia suffering from or in danger of Ebola, for the kidnapped girls in Nigeria and their families, for those in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, for the people of Ukraine, for refugees displaced from their homes and often torn from their families, and for any who suffer famine, war, or pestilence. Some spirits “come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29), and that includes the spirits that trouble the world today.
At the same time we should be educated about world affairs. Knowing what is happening and why, and knowing what the genuine alternatives are, will allow us to come to informed conclusions about what should be done. And only if we have informed conclusions can we listen to the proposals of our elected representatives and make wise decisions about which courses of action would be best and whom we should vote for. Party loyalty is no substitute for education. Parties have intentions and objectives that are not public and that sometimes have more to do with political ambition than with the attempt to make our country better. Talk radio will not help us know the truth about the problems that face us. It seldom does more than encourage people who already agree to continue to do so while making them feel good about themselves and giving them reason to hate those who disagree with them.
In contrast, the kinds of speakers and programs sponsored by the Wheatley Institution and similar institutions will connect us to the voices and explanations of those who understand what is happening in the world. They will allow us to hear a variety of people explain their views, views that they have thought through carefully and for which they can give explanations.
We can learn what we need to know to go beyond the cant of public opinion
We cannot all be experts on each of the issues of the day. Most of us cannot be experts on any of them because we already have full-time responsibilities that do not allow us to become experts. But we all have access to the expertise brought to us by institutions such as The Wheatley Institution and similar organizations, and their allies. We can learn what we need to know to go beyond the cant of public opinion; we can be educated enough to help our country make the decisions that need to be made through our votes.
What can we do in response to the problems of the world? We can pray and learn.