Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh: The Human Person is the Issue

 Arabic original here.

The Human Person is the Issue

Amidst the sequence of events sweeping through our Arab region, we often forget those who are directly concerned with them. In our reaction to them, we address the large issues instead of paying attention to the suffering of individuals who are experiencing the horror of these events. The problem here lies in the absence of the concept of the individual in our societies, our cultures and our way of thinking. According to our predominant culture, a person is not a distinct individual endowed with known gifts, but rather merely a statistic in a religious, sectarian or racial bloc. If he declares his liberation from belonging to any prior classification, there are those who include him, despite himself, in one of these affiliations and deal with him exclusively on this basis. He has no escape from this, as though it is an inevitable fate.

We forget that the people of Iraq are Iraqis whose anscestors have dwelled in that land for thousands of years, since before the rise of the monotheistic religions. They were the people of that country before they became Sunnis and Shiites, Chaldeans and Assyrians, Mandeans and Yezidis, before they were Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds... We forget this unique Iraqi character, compound and diverse, in which have mixed various streams of cultures that have successively formed Iraqi history in civilizational and human aspects in general. We forget this Iraqi uniqueness that is represented in the Iraqi individual and we resort to theorizing about a history that is passed, a history that does not concern most of those who are enduring daily suffering, who are forced to flee their homes, denying those who commit the incessant, unrestrained violence that kills them day and night.

Is there anyone who still believes that Iraqi Christians are concerned with talk about coexistence or about the history of Islamic religious tolerance toward Christians when they see themselves eliminated from their homes and their churches are blown up? Does it mean anything to the murderers for you to lecture them about coexistence and acceptance of those with a different religion in the Islamic tradition, from the Qur'an and hadith through the latest tolerant fatwas so that they will stop committing acts of violence against the People of the Book and other Iraqis? It goes without saying that safeguarding any individual Iraqi in compelling circumstances such as these does not lie in repeated talk of coexistence in the past why today and tomorrow he is being wantonly killed. His concern is to save himself and his children from extermination and extinction.

There is nothing of use to Muslims and Christians in Iraq in talking about glorious history, nor in talking about religious tolerance in Islam. What is beneficial for them is to go back to regarding the individual Iraqi as a citizen in himself and to confront the forces of takfiri darkness that are not concerned with the issues of Muslims, Christians, Mandeans or Yezidis, but rather with laying claim to Iraq's treasures and its oil.

The Iraqi, before belonging to a religious or ethnic bloc, is a unique individual whose memory constantly takes him back to the places of his birth, his flourishing, his play and his worship. Who can erase from the memory of the Mandean the waters of the Tigress and Euphrates where he performed his ablutions? And who can remove from the Yezidi's memory the importance of the temple of Lalesh, where he performed his worship? Who can efface from the memory of the Christian the spread of Christianity into every corner of Iraq? Who can remove from the Shiite's memory Najaf and Karbala? Who can deny the Sunni the importance of Baghdad and all of Iraqi in his heritage? There is no issue, then, other than the issue of the Iraqi person before anything else.

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