'God is love, religion in its essence commands love''/ reflections by Patriarch Michel Sabbah

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Sunday 20/1/2019

Religion and the rejection of the other!

Does religion encourage rejection of the other, war and violence? Does it make believers feel superior or better than others? Sometimes it seems so. It is even a reality which we experience here and there but it is not a general fact.

In truth, the cause of all this is not religion. Religion which is the worship of the One God, Merciful and Compassionate who loves all His creatures, cannot be but a source of mercy and love. If the contrary happens, the cause is not religion but the believers who are unable to understand and totally accept their religion.

So where does religious fanaticism and hatred of the other of different religion come from? From where does the killing in the name of religion or in the name of God come? From where do religious wars between peoples come?

Those responsible for religious wars are the believers, not God Almighty, and not religion. Religion, as God wants it to be, is compassion and love. The believers are those who fail to understand their religion and wage wars. The depth of evil and selfishness makes them unable to understand their own religion and act against its spirit. Instead of finding in their faith help to correct themselves, increase their virtues and love for people, they turn religion into fanaticism which exaggerates their selfish and hostile tendencies towards others.

Monday 21/1/2019

Religion and the rejection of the other!

Does religion call to reject or assault the other? No. It is faith distorted by the believers and their egoism which are the source of rejection and aggression against the other. Man is the killer, not God Almighty, and not religion.

It is said that the Scriptures contain texts that command fighting and killing. That is right. But the word of God must be interpreted and understood by the believers according to the nature of God, not according to their human tendencies or according to the evil inclinations inherent in them. The Bible is the word of God and God is mercy and love. Hence, these texts must find an explanation consistent with the nature of God Almighty. There are other texts that command compassion, love and justice. It is in light of these texts that a true believer is guided and interprets all other texts

It is the duty of believers to meditate upon the Word of God and to behave accordingly. However, if they want to understand the word of God, they must first know and admit their ignorance and that they need a lot of knowledge, study, guidance and prayer to reach the true meaning in the sacred texts. One cannot attribute to God what is contrary to the nature of God. To know that this is the right path is to accept the simple and clear criterium that God is love and compassion. Love comes from God but killing and cruelty are human by-products.

Tuesday 22/1/2019

How do the believers free themselves from religious fanaticism and the inclination to reject and assault others?

The believers seek every day to clarify their understanding of religion which is a relationship with God and a relationship with people in order to love and not to harm them. There are cases of conflict in which one must defend himself, but these are of human concern and not religious extremism. In such cases of injustice, when others are oppressed, one’s duty is to defend one’s dignity as well as that of others. That is another matter.

But when the believers, see that the others who have a different religion are strangers or an enemies, only because of the difference of religion, here the believers are wrong. Doing so, they contradict their own religion and humanity. Therefore, true believers ask God in their daily prayer not to let them confuse the faith in God with their human selfishness and instincts of rejection or killing.

The true believers examine their conscience every day and seek to redirect and clarify their understanding their faith in God.

Wednesday 23/1/2019

True believers seek to purify their understanding of their faith in God. Educators, clergy, church and mosque, the family and the school can help them in the right or wrong direction. They can form brothers and sisters or enemies if they instill in believers the wrong fanatical education. There are in fact many prejudices against others of different religion, transmitted through generations by the family or the religious leaders themselves. Religious leaders bear the responsibility of the education given to generations.

The guiding and simple criterium is: We are all creatures of God. God created us all equal. We are all commanded to respect every human being because by respecting human beings we respect God, their Creator. When we deal with a human being, it is with God and not just man that we deal. On this basis, true believers determine their attitudes towards every person in their society and everywhere regardless of their religion.
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Thursday 24/1/2019

Religion and wars

Is religion a cause of violence, hatred and wars? No. In history, there were wars caused by religion. Even recently we witnessed in our region mass killings in the name of God.

The two poles in religion are God and the worshipper. God does not call for violence. He is love and mercy. Man, created by God, is created to love God and his fellow men. The human being did love but he also killed his brother. Cain killed his brother Abel. This first killing is a symbol of all subsequent killings, wars and human cruelty that fill the history of humankind. Worse, man attributed his own cruelty to God Himself. He proclaimed that he makes war and kills in the name of God.

The basic truth is not this. Man was created by God to love, to love God and all his brothers and sisters. Any planning or form of war is a distortion of man's humanity and of the nature of God. God is love and religion in its essence commands love, as God is.

Today, the question is: Will men continue to declare wars or return to the path of love? Will we take the way of Cain, or the way of God? Many signs and human international accomplishments indicate that man today wants to avoid war, but many other indications show the contrary: we are still following Cain in the path of war and death. We just look at what happened and is still happening in our region.

It seems that the way back to love is still a long way to go.

Friday 25/1/2019

Religion and religious wars!

We have known many religious wars in history. We say that what causes wars are the believers and those responsible in religions, both in ancient times and in our present time. Today, many have seen and confessed that it was wrong to make wars in the name of religion. On the other hand, we still see "religious wars" in our countries to this day, within world wars raised in our region.

Religion still needs honest believers who understand the truth of religion. History, for its part, still needs a new reading that is able to distinguish between what should be attributed to God, and what should be attributed to man and the power of evil in man.

History is a teacher of humanity and of the believer. To be so, it must be subject to universal humanistic intellectual critique. The correct reading of past history makes the past a landmark, and the misreading drives us into human mazes that lead us to a state of helplessness, and make us unable to build our present and our future. Will be able to read our history under a new light?

Who will read history for us today?

Saturday 26/1/2019

He who reads history for us today finds the right lessons in it to help us build our present and future? Our present must of course be rooted in our past. But it also must bloom new flowers, not flowers of the past. Our lives today must be anchored in the past but full of freedom in the present so that we are able to participate in all the developments of humanity, and to resist its wars as well.

A human being today cannot be half buried in the dust of the past and half above the ground. He is the same person filled with all the values of past civilizations that empower him to live fully in the present, free and resolved to deal with the present without fear or hesitation. Patterns of life change and are renewed with each generation. Let us make our own way of life.

Today we live a difficult historical period. It is a dispute with the present world in many ways in our countries. We face big obstacles, due to unpreparedness, and due to conditions imposed on us. But, if we want, and even if we are facing a mountain of difficulties we can walk where we must walk.

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