Have you or a member of your family ever been a victim of violence? Do you have reason to be afraid that you will? Violence has been called a “growing public health problem across the world.” Consider some examples.
DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE: “One in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in her lifetime,” reports the United Nations. Sadly, “it is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.”
STREET CRIME: Reportedly, more than 30,000 violent gangs are criminally active in the United States. In Latin America, nearly 1 person in every 3 has reported being a victim of violent crime.
HOMICIDES: It is estimated that almost half a million people were murdered during one recent year, more than those killed in wars. Southern Africa and Central America had the highest average murder rate, over four times the world average. More than 100,000 people were murdered in Latin America in one year, and some 50,000 in Brazil alone. Can a lasting solution to violence be found?
CAN VIOLENCE BE STOPPED?
Why is violence so widespread? Many causes have been identified, including the following: tension arising from social and economic inequalities, a general disdain for the lives of others, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, the exposure of children to the violent behavior of adults, and the fact that violent criminals act with seeming impunity.
Admittedly, progress in curbing violence has been made in some parts of the world. The densely populated city of São Paulo, Brazil, reportedly saw a reduction in homicides of about 80 percent in the last decade. Still, violent crime of all sorts is rampant in that city, and the homicide rate remains about 10 per 100,000 inhabitants. What, then, will it take to end violence once and for all?
A lasting solution to violence ultimately involves people—their attitudes and behavior. For violent people to change, such traits as pride, greed, and selfishness need to give way to love, respect, and concern for others.
What can motivate a person to make such drastic changes? Think about what the Bible teaches:
“This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.
Love for God and a fear of displeasing him are such strong motivating forces that they can help even violent people change their lives—not superficially, but to the point of transforming their entire personality. Does this really happen?
Consider Alex, * who has spent the last 19 years in the Brazilian prison system for several acts of assault. He became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the year 2000, after studying the Bible with the Witnesses. Has he truly changed his violent behavior? Yes, and Alex deeply regrets all the bad things he did. He says: “I have come to love God for allowing me to feel genuinely forgiven. Gratitude and love for Jehovah have helped me to change my ways.”
César, also in Brazil, was involved in burglary and armed robbery. That was his way of life for some 15 years. What made him change? While in prison, he was contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he too studied the Bible. César explains: “For the first time, I found a purpose in life. I learned to love God. I also learned to fear him—a wholesome fear of returning to doing what is bad and making Jehovah sad. I did not want to show myself ungrateful for his kindness. That love and fear motivated me to change.”
What do those experiences show us? That the Bible has the power to transform people’s lives profoundly—by changing their way of thinking. (Ephesians 4:23) Alex, mentioned earlier, adds: “What I learned from the Bible was like clean water pouring through me, gradually purifying me by washing away bad thoughts. These were things I never imagined I would be able to get rid of.” Yes, when we fill our minds with the Bible’s clean message, it can expel or wash away badness. God’s Word has cleansing power. (Ephesians 5:26) The result is that cruel and selfish people can change their ways and become kind and peaceable. (Romans 12:18) They experience peace in their lives by applying Bible principles.—Isaiah 48:18.
More than eight million of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 240 lands have discovered the key to eradicating violence. People of all races and from all social levels and backgrounds have learned to love and fear God and also to love one another, living peaceably as a worldwide family. (1 Peter 4:8) They are living proof that a world free of violence is possible.
A WORLD FREE OF VIOLENCE IS NEAR!
The Bible promises that God will soon cleanse this earth of violence. Today’s violent world is facing God’s “day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly people.” (2 Peter 3:5-7) No more will violent people make others suffer. How can we be sure that God wants to intervene and eradicate violence?