Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on the First Lebanese Born without a Sect

Arabic original here. More about the significance of baby Ghadi can be read here.

For Nidal, Kholoud and Ghadi

When I received the first identity document for my eldest daughter, I smiled and wondered why they noted on the line for religion "Greek Orthodox" when she had not yet received the sacrament of baptism, which alone makes her officially belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. As someone dedicated to his Church and about to become a priest, I disapproved of this, regarding it as the state through its laws and with the complicity of the religious leaders encroaching on something that pertains to faith and turning it into mere membership in one of the Lebanese tribes that are called sects.

It is not the state's business to indicate in its official documents the membership of its citizens in a sect or religion. In doing so, it discriminates between them, without any regard for the most important of the rights required by citizenship: equality of rights and responsibilities for all citizens.

When the state mentions sectarian affiliation in its official documents, it does so in order to consecrate its sectarianism and in order to further the practice of sectarian discrimination that leads to inequality between citizens according to their sectarian affiliations.

At the end of September, Ghadi Darwish was born, the first Lebanese citizen who was not assigned to one of the sects in his first identity document. He is the first Lebanese who deserves to be described as a citizen in the full meaning of the word.

He is purely a Lebanese citizen. The distinction has been made between his national affiliation and the sectarian affiliation of his parents. He is the first Lebanese whose religious individuality and freedom is honored by the state.

Not mentioning religion on an identity document by no means implies that its bearer has no religious or sectarian affiliation. It does not necessarily mean that its bearer is an atheist, an infidel, an agnostic or is indifferent, just as mention of a religion certainly does not imply that the document's bearer is necessarily a believer... The purpose an identity document is to demonstrate citizenship and only information that is related to this citizenship. Its purpose is not to demonstrate religious affiliation, who one believes in or what one believes.

Religious affiliation is a personal matter between an individual and his Lord, or between an individual and himself if he is not a believer. Naturally, people have the right to raise their children according to what they believe. However, faith is not inherited in the same way as nationality or a last name. Thus it is a violation of one of the basic human rights, the right to freedom of belief. There are many who mock the sect to which their official documents say that they belong, even though they feel themselves forced to accept  this affiliation for various reasons.

God does not need the testimony of the state in order to recognize those who believe in Him. He will not ask anyone for their papers in order to know what religion they belong to. Likewise, He does not need the testimony of those zealous for faith or the hatreds of the takfiris in order to establish His judgment on the last day. He will not interrogate anything other than a person's heart, the love hidden therein, and the mercy that he did for his fellow human beings.

The birth of Ghadi is blessed. May it be a first blossom, bearing tidings of the birth of a civil state governed by civil laws in word and deed, a state that respects human rights and rights of citizenship. Building a better future requires a constant struggle, a struggle that longs for eternity.*

*The names Nidal and Kholoud literally mean "struggle" and "eternity".

No comments: