Monday, November 7, 2022

Met Antonios (el-Souri): Dialogue in Truth and Common Life

 Arabic original here, originally published on March 25, 2019 in an-Nahar here.

Dialogue in Truth and Common Life

Most of the time, people lie to each other and do not dialogue, because dialogue either exists in truth or it does not exist. But there being dialogue in truth does not mean that people are in agreement on what they are dialoguing about, but rather that they understand each other to be different and to gladly and joyfully accept their difference as a gift from above so that they may learn freedom in love for every person, since where there is love from above there is freedom.

The purpose of dialogue is not to establish one opinion over and against another, but to communicate in love to arrive at an opinion upon which this mutual understanding is achieved, if possible, or to accept the difference in respect for the freedom of each of those engaging in dialogue. But those who wish to live together must have dialogue and mutual understanding, even if just on the most basic common denominator between them, in order to lay a foundation for common life. What is required of people is not to apply principles and dogmas, because these differ across different religions and philosophical, dogmatic and social systems. What is required is mutual understanding of human truth in freedom of expression and respect for opinions.

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It is certain that there are natural and social axioms tied to man's true reality and respect for his being, his choices and his right to a dignified life according to God's will. These are subject to dialogue in the context of clarification and respecting each other's existence. There exist, however, things that are non-negotiable. This is what comes within the framework of truth and falsehood with regard to everything that distorts man's humanity and deprives him of his rights contained in the constitution and the law. By way of example and not exclusively:

1. Corruption, which destroys the state and increases destitution and injustice.

2. Monopolizing a specific domain, which leads to a handful of people controlling the fates of the majority.

3. Distorting the man's true ontological reality in legislation or practice, under the pretext of personal freedom, etc.

What is intended here is that dialogue between people is for building up the structure of common life upon a single solid foundation, where all people live regardless of their faith or their , political, ethnic or ideological affiliation... on the condition that all of this is based on respect for opinion and belief and the other's freedom to live his life in the manner he sees appropriate which does not affect or injure the image of God in his partner, and so long as it is within the law.

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The fundamental issue that impedes every serious dialogue between people is their disagreeing about the truth, even if they are superficially in agreement about seeking the truth or think that the truth is evident. Matters are relative in the eyes of people, but in the eyes of God the truth is one. Thus, when the Lord Jesus Christ answered Pontius Pilate, who was judging Him, who asked Him whether He was a king, He said to him, "You say that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Then Pilate responded, "What is truth?" (John 18:37 and 38).

This is the dilemma in dialogue between people: "What is truth?" Hence, true dialogue cannot exist in truth between people except from each side's view of the truth. And is the truth with people pure, or is it based on their passions and their interests?

On account of this, people's dialogue in truth about the good of their common life is based on rules recognized by everyone, which become the universal standard for elucidating and devising the principles by which is erected the common home, that is the nation, in which all come together according to the principle of equality in rights and responsibilities for the good of society and dignified life for individuals in a framework of respecting individual and collective freedom in order to build up a communion of one life in distinction and distinction in unity.

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