'The perfect way is living together with our religious differences'/ reflections by Patriarch Michel Sabbah

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Sunday 13/1/2019

"Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the Earth," (Colossians 3: 3). The Christians, while seeking to achieve their lives on Earth, raise their eyes to Heaven. After the Eternal Word of God became Man, they know that they are no longer alone on earth. They know that God is with them.

The Christians care for things of this Earth, accomplish all their duties, and contribute to the building of their societies. They contribute to reform where reform is necessary. Our society is still full of fundamental injustices, in politics, economy and respect for human dignity.

The Christians look above, to draw strength in their quest in Earth, to ask for light, to see that there are things for which they must stop, take care of and heal.

The Christians look above to renew the power of the Spirit in themselves. They fight where they have to fight, not where the great and the oppressors want them to fight. They fight with the power of the spirit, with their power as human being, and try to remind the great and the oppressors of our common humanity and God-given dignity.

Monday 14/1/2019

The true power of believers is the power of faith and love. Faith by its nature generates love of God and neighbor. Without love, the believers may be misled and turn into sectarians. Sectarians forget that God is the subject of their faith. They, the human persons, and their human faith community, become the subject of their faith. Faith is no more belonging to God, but to a human reality, a human society, a form of civilization inspired by religion. At this point, in relations with others different in their religion, the divine disappears and is replaced by mere human reactions. The sectarians, consciously or unconsciously, changes their faith in God into faith in themselves and their human culture. They become God for themselves. Faith becomes then a defense of their individual and collective interests. Though verbally invoking the name of God, they become persecutors or killers of their neighbors.

This is what happens in our societies. We all say that God is love, and He is compassionate and merciful. Nevertheless, some believers, in the name of God, take aggressive positions against others, or even, as we have seen in some of our countries, they make war, they murder and assault against people of other faiths.

True believers are always attentive not to fall: “Everyone no matter how firmly he thinks he is standing must be careful he does not fall” (1 Cor 10: 12). Therefore, they do not stop looking at the higher, so they do not forget God, the object of His faith and love.

The proof which tells you that you are still adhering to your faith, is love, love of God and love of all God's creation. If you harm any neighbor, in thought, speech or action, you must know that you have begun to depart from your own religion and worship of God: if your faith tells you to harm your neighbor, be sure that you have abandoned your own religion; you worship yourself or your human community, not God. On the contrary, if you love God, and all God’s creatures, you remain true to your faith and to God.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Faith and human religious belonging

In our societies, to this day, with all our knowledge about God and God’s creation, there is still the spirit of human belonging to our religions, that prevails and often hinders the knowledge of the truth about God and the other, similar or different in his/her religion.

The fundamental motivation for building our society is centered on the individual ego, yet followed by the collective ego. On the collective ego, to this day, in our societies, we are still at a stage of conflict between the religious and the national ego, which is first, and which makes our unity.

We experience this repeatedly on religious occasions, as well as when it comes to civil equality between all citizens, of different religions. The true believers in God, the believers in Spirit and Truth, know that God is the Lord of all peoples, the Lord of all His creation. He makes no difference between His creation. So do true believers. Whatever their religions are, they logically, love all the creation of God.

Therefore, the unity of the nation is based on the national ego that unites all the citizens, and considers them all equally belonging to the same homeland, whatever their beliefs, whatever the relations between the individuals and God. The collective religious ego remains a fundamental basis, but every believer must know that God unites us and does not divide. To reach this point, we still need more experience and more understanding of the essence of religion.

Wednesday 16/1/2019

Faith and sectarianism

Faith may easily become sectarian. The believers believe in God, but their faith may gradually be dominated by human belonging to their faith community. The community develops a way of life inspired by faith; it creates a new culture. It isolates the believers in this new community. Consciously or unconsciously, the believers develop in themselves a kind of closure and rejection of the other.

At the level of individual relationships in daily life, the concept of the group gives birth to discrimination, to feelings of superiority towards the “non-believers”, considered as “ignorant” in need of conversion to the truth. Towards them begins an attitude of compassion with the wish of converting them. When conversion does not occur, compassion gives way to feelings of rejection, exclusion and aggressiveness.

This is the case of believers in whom, faith becomes a sectarian attitude, which isolates them in their community and renders them incapable of accepting anyone else who is different in religion. In this case, faith will be cause of disputes, injustices or even wars.

When the faith community offers an open human education, and the believer remains truly believing in God and man, open to all without discrimination, and loving all, and then relations with others, even different, may remain harmonious among people in the same society.

Thursday 17/1/2019

The believer and the community

It is true that the faith community may turn faith into a pure human belonging to the community and take a sectarian attitude. However, it is normal that the believers live their faith within a community. It makes the believers a big family united by the same faith. It gives support to all believers, in all domains, spiritual and others. St. Paul (Romans 12: 5-6; 1 Cor 12: 12…) says that believers resemble one body, where members support one another. Community helps the believers grow in their faith to worship God, and to deal with others in or outside their faith community.

But the faith community should remain vigilant so as not to fall into the danger of isolation, or discrimination and sectarianism. It should create one big open family, with believers filled with true faith and true universal love for all.

Friday 18/1/2019

Religious Pluralism in society

In a single, multi-religious society, the question is whether people can live in peace even if they differ in their religions. This applies to our daily life. The answer is: Yes. But this depends on the education and guidance received by the believer, whether from all responsible people, clergy or civil authorities, or at home. In principle, people can live in peace with their religious or intellectual differences.

The opposite is also possible, which means that multi-religious belongings may cause difficulties in daily life, such as discrimination, incapacity of mutual respect… and for the same reasons, i.e. wrong education and wrong guidance by the responsible authorities. The measure of humanity and success of a multi-religious society is its ability to absorb all differences, and to deal with all people as equal human beings no matter how different are their religion or thought.

It is the challenge that confronts us all in our societies every day.

Saturday 19/1/2019

Religious pluralism in society

We have in our daily life much friendship, mutual respect and positive directives from the leaders. But, there is also something wrong in our daily life relations, besides some religious political trends that emphasize differences and urge aggression. Religious extremism is on the rise.

The Egyptian writer, Shadi Louis Boutros, published recently a novel titled, "The Ways of the Lord," in which he recounts the daily life of Copts and deals with the issue of religious difference in Egyptian society. He affirms that something is wrong. Moreover, we all know the harsh experience we have been living in some of our countries in the Middle East.

All this means that we still have a long way to go. We have much to do, before we reach the perfect way of “living together” with our religious differences. Intentions are sincere. We are walking in the right direction. But the road ahead is long. We need new thought, new vision, more humanity, more equality among people, to build ourselves, to build our present and our future.

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