Sunday, 20 December 2009

Ir-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum (15)

IL-HMISTAX-IL PARTI

Il-problema ewlenija bl-istituzzjonijiet taghna tallum (inkluz dawk religjuzi) proprjament mhijiex li l-bicca l-kbira tal-poplu taghna qed jonqos mir-rispett u l-fiducja taghna fihom―kif xi whud jibqghu jsostnu―, imma l-problema ewlenija hi li huma ma nbidlux istituzzjonalment fin-nuqqas fundamentali ta’ rispett lejna u fiducja fina. Dan japplika ghall-istituzzjonijiet civili daqskemm ghal dawk religjuzi; ghall-mezzi kollha ta’ kontroll li juzaw halli jikkonservaw is-setgha taghhom daqskemm ghall-operaturi u l-amministraturi ufficjali taghhom.

L-involviment tieghek

Bhala parti mis-socjetà Maltija, anki int b’xi mod jew iehor taghmel parti mill-fenomenu religjuz ta’ dawn il-gzejjer. Kwazi kwazi minghajr ma trid, illum jew ghada se jkollok, jekk ma tihux sehem attiv f’certi diskussjonijiet pubblici li jirrigwardaw hwejjeg li jmissu mal-morali u etika, ghallanqas tifforma opinjoni personali dwarhom. Forsi digà ffurmajt xi tip ta’ opinjoni dwar xi whud mill-kwestjonijiet ta’ zmienna, bhal, nghidu ahna, id-divorzju, l-immigrazzjoni illegali, il-gwerer hekk imsejha ‘gusti’, ir-relazzjonijiet omosesswali, il-gwerer ‘preventivi’ (li jsiru fuq pajjiz qabel ma presumibbilment dan ikun f’pozizzjoni li jattakka lil haddiehor), il-ko-abitazzjoni, l-izvilupp ta’ armi nukleari, l-ewtanasja, id-detenzjoni arbitrarja tan-nies, l-abort, il-metodi tas-suq hieles, il-piena kapitali, id-dewmien fil-qrati tal-gustizzja, sess qabel u barra z-zwieg, l-gholi tal-hajja, l-edukazzjoni tal-ulied, l-impozizzjoni ta’ taxxi ingusti, u hafna hwejjeg bhal dawn. Dawn huma (jew se jkunu) hwejjeg li jmissu mill-qrib il-hajja tieghek jew ta’ dawk li thobb.

L-opinjoni tieghek dwar kwestjonijiet u hwejjeg bhal dawn tiddependi hafna fuq il-valuri li thaddan jew, fi kliem iehor, fuq l-ispiritwalità tieghek. Ir-religjonijiet certament jipprovdu gwida spiritwali bhal din u inti tista’ ssib fihom ghajnuna siewja. Probabbilment, l-importanti f’dan kollu huwa li inti tavvicina kwestjonijiet morali bhal dawn u anki hwejjeg etici ohra li jolqtuk b’mod aktar personali, b’maturità u anki b’responsabbiltà. Fid-dinja mintix wahdek u lanqas tista’ tkun, u d-decizjonijiet u l-opinjonijiet tieghek ikollhom effett mhux biss fuqek, imma wkoll fuq haddiehor, specjalment dawk li huma l-aktar qrib tieghek.

L-ispiritwalità tieghek ma tista’ qatt tikkoncerna lilek biss. Dejjem tikkoncerna wkoll lil haddiehor.

Tinbix tal-hsieb

B’hekk temmejna din il-harsa hafifa lejn il-fenomenu kumpless tar-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum. Probabbilment kien hemm diversi punti li int ma qbiltx maghhom jew mal-mod kif tqieghdu. Forsi wkoll xtaqt li jissemmew affarijiet ohra li thallew barra jew li talbu elaborazzjoni aktar fit-tul. Naturalment, dan mhuwiex necessarjament hazin. Tifhem li dan kollu li ntqal hawnfuq mhuwiex vangelu. Aktarx l-importanti hu li thallih jimbixlek il-hsieb u jghinek sabiex taghraf ahjar dak li inti ghandek go fik u madwarek.

TMIEM

Monday, 14 December 2009

Hating Al-Demoqratia

An answer to Mr Ramzy Baroud


I refer to Mr Ramzy Baroud’s article “The Hypocrisy of Al-Demoqratia”, published on www.plsanpawl.com and elsewhere (for example: www.plsanpawl.com, www.scoop.co.nz, www.democraticunderground.com, www.countercurrents.org, tweetmeme.com). This website’s editors may be unaware that the very same article had been also published under the title “Why Muslims ‘hate democracy’” (see: www.maannews.net, twitter.com).

Mr Baroud is to be respected for his commitment towards the Palestinian cause. Also for the terrible experiences he had, even within his own family, with the aggression and injustice of Israelis against the Palestinians. He is to be appreciated as an author (My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, The Second Palestinian Intifada, and Searching Jenin) and as an intellectual. Furthermore, he is to be respected for not succumbing to despair, and giving his share against such great odds (as his website, www.ramzybaroud.net, proves).

The article referred to here is an angry one, as Mr Baroud himself points out, and his anger has also to be respected. People living in countries like Malta, where most generations are oblivious of what war and persecution means, cannot know, deep down, what living as the Palestinians do really means. I have been in Palestine during the present Intifada and seen the terrible and prolonged hardships of this stalwart people. I came out of there convinced that, even if the Palestinian people are sometimes depicted as violent people, their reaction in relation to Israeli violence is indeed mild. Certainly, Mr Baroud’s anger is not to be disparaged, let alone reviled.

However, as sometimes can be observed elsewhere with other earnest and committed Muslim authors, Mr Baroud’s anger is unfortunately displaced. His words maintain the destructive ‘us-them’ divide, and also hearten people (whether Muslims or not) to harbour a siege mentality. Both techniques are part of the problem Mr Baroud is trying to solve; they are not part of the solution most of us would like to implement.
As in most such articles, Mr Baroud uses clichés like “Western countries”, “Western values”, “Western democracy”, “Western interventions”, “Western imperialism”, “the West’s fear of Islam”, and the like, but never defines them or attempts to explain them. At one point he reveals that he understands the ‘West’ in both a “physical” and “figurative” sense but, again, never says what he means by these terms. He just assumes that the reader knows what he is talking about. It is clear that, like so many others, such a respectable and appreciable person is ensnared by these oft-repeated hollow generalisations that persist in hardening prejudices and freezing any comprehensible understanding of people. Similar generalisations and clichés are parroted by people on both sides of the ‘us-them’ divide, when, for example, some talk about ‘Muslims’ and ‘Arabs’ in the same breath (including Mr Baroud himself).

Mr Baroud says that we Westerners (Does he consider the Maltese to be part of his ‘West’?) are on a war path against Islam. “The targeting of Muslims in Western countries,” he states categorically “and the subjugation of entire Muslim nations all over the world has never ceased. Not for a day.” To make his point he mentions the 2004 ban on headscarves in France, and the recent (2009) ban on minarets in Switzerland. This last occurrence seems to be the main reason for all his ranting. However, Mr Baroud does not in the least analyze the intense difference between the two events: the first being a ruling that was directed at all types of concealing headwear (including hooded pull-overs); the second being a despicable action of far-right extremists.

The fact that this has been the main source of the Swiss ban defeats Mr Baroud’s own argument. For the far-right extremists are the purportedly foes of democracy, not its supporters, who brought about this ban (which, by the way, has still to be challenged―successfully, I hope―in a court of law). But Mr Baroud throws the baby out with the water, and castigates all us ‘Westerners’, as if all of us are of the same mind and responsible for any extreme positions taken against anyone, Muslim or anyone else. Well, Mr Baroud, we are not, thank you!

But Mr Baroud goes one step further, and makes our alleged hatred for Muslims a spring-board for pouring scorn on democracy itself, well at least the ‘Western’ type of democracy. But again, authors like Mr Baroud do not regale us with the fine distinctions they make between brands. Almost contemptuously, Mr Baroud says that democracy is “a Western conception”, but then goes on to provide us with admirable and convincing examples of Muslims in Arab countries upholding democracy as a cherished value. Is not this a little bit of a contradiction? As if we did not know that most Muslims uphold democracy, or that, as he himself says, “Muslim intellectuals and nations displayed impressive open-mindedness”, Mr Baroud tries to convince us in the same breath that democracy is a sort of evil. Mr Baroud himself admits that “Muslim communities in the West […] live in the abodes of democracy. They drink from the fountain of rights and freedoms that never runs dry.”

Splendid words. But Mr Baroud then drops his supposed shell-bomb: “Western democracy,” he maintains, “[is] conditional.” It “falter[s],” he states, “on its own commitment to democracy.” It reeks, he claims, “of “double standards, self-negation and, at times, pure hypocrisy.” And what reasons he gives to all of this? “The constant spewing out of right-wing hatred,” he answers, “evangelical fanatic preaching and all the rest.”

Well, this is not news. We all know that democracy, like any other system on earth, has its own pitfalls, and that it can be beaten at its own game. But this is hardly a reason to hate it. Or to hate the ‘West’. And anyway, Mr Baroud proposes no alternative to it. One reason probably being that he does not seem to be able to resolve his love-hate relationship to ‘Western’ democracy.

Muslims (or anyone else, for that matter) should not hate democracy just because extremists and fanatics go about finding ways how to get around it. The same goes for people hating Islam because of its deadly extremists and fanatics. In both cases their hate is misplaced. It is not democracy or Islam, to stick to these two examples only, that are the problem but the people that abuse them. We are bound not to forget the millions of people who do not misuse democracy, who fight extremists and fanatics on all fronts, and promote the wholesome values which democracy embraces. In the same way, none of us is bound to forget the millions of Muslims who faithfully live the principles laid down in the Qur’an.

Sadly, in trying to defend his worthy case Mr Baroud vilified the very system that gives us ‘Westerners’ the possibility and the hope of making this earth a better place for all of us to live in. By upholding the false us-them divide, and by endorsing absurd preconceptions about the ‘West’ or about ‘Westerners’ in general, Mr Baroud succeeds only in giving strength to the cultural incomprehensibility that stubbornly clings to most people’s consciousness, reinforces their impenetrability into the beauty of each other’s lives, debilitates their capability to sympathize with each other’s worries and hardships, and, worse of all, toughens the dangerous attitudes of extremists and fanatics.

Mr Baroud’s disservice to democracy can hardly be condoned.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Ir-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum (14)

L-ERBATAX-IL PARTI

L-applikazzjoni konkreta mill-Knisja Kattolika lokali tal-principji tat-taghlim socjali taghha jista’ jkollu kemm effett pozittiv kif ukoll effett negattiv fuq il-valuri spiritwali tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin. L-effett pozittiv jista’ jkun li bosta nies fostna se jkomplu jissostitwixxu t-twemmin arkajku Kattoliku b’twemmin u agir iehor aktar relevanti u sinifikani, bhal dawk fid-drittijiet tal-bniedem, fil-valuri umani, fil-libertajiet tal-individwu, fil-gustizzja socjali, fil-harsien tal-ambjent u tal-hlejjaq hajjin kollha, u f’valuri ohra bhal dawn. Dan aktarx ma jeskludix li, fil-process, aktar Maltin u Ghawdxin se jkomplu jhaddnu forom religjuzi u spiritwalitajiet li jivvaforixxu u jinkuraggixxu dan it-tip ta’ valuri.

Setgha u fiducja

Min-naha l-ohra, l-effett negattiv jista’ jkun li nies ohrajn fostna―nittamaw mhux hafna―se jkomplu jissostitwixxu t-twemmin Kattoliku b’twemmin u agir li jivvaforixxu u jinkuraggixxu biss forom ekonomici ossessjonati li jaghmlu profitt bla skruplu, nuqqas ta’ rispett lejn iz-zghir, sfruttar tad-dghajjef fis-socjetà, it-tkattir tal-gid tal-ftit fuq dahar il-hafna, kontroll tal-mezzi ta’ komunikazzjoni li ideologikament jaljenaw il-mases, u suriet ohra ta’ pjagi socjali, politici u ekonomici bhal dawn.

Dawn iz-zewg effetti probabbilment se jibqghu mixjin magenb xulxin minghajr ma wahda ma se jkollha l-hila bizzejjed li teghleb lill-ohra ghal kollox.
Fi kliem ftit aktar elaborat, nistghu nghidu li zmienna hu wiehed li fih m’ghandniex nafdaw b’mod implicitu jew awtomatiku lil min ghandu xi setgha politika, ekonomika, militari, religjuza, socjali jew familjari, u lanqas il-mezzi ta’ komunikazzjoni li dawn in-nies jista’ jkollhom b’mod dirett jew indirett sabiex izommu jew ikabbru dik is-setgha. Fi ftit kliem, bosta minna jissuspettaw kull setgha instituzzjonali. Hafna drabi, setgha bhal din aktarx tfisser biss manipulazzjoni, korruzzjoni, abbuz jew tghawwig tas-sewwa; u jekk ma tfissirx hekk, nobsru li llum jew ghada inevitabbilment twassal ghal hekk.

Setgha morali

Minkejja dan, però, dan ma jfissirx li bosta drabi istituzzjonijiet ta’ setgha ma jdahhluniex fl-iskora taghhom. Fil-fatt, it-tattici taghhom huma tant fini, attraenti u mohbija, li mhuwiex rari li nsibu lilna nfusna mkaxkra mill-faxxinu taghhom jew maqbuda fix-xbieki li jifirxulna. Dan aktarx ghandu mnejn jibqa’ jsir sakemm nintebhu bis-superficjalità u l-makakkerija taghhom.

Min-naha l-ohra, hemm ghamla ta’ setgha wahda li llum jidher li nafdaw hafna b’mod implicitu: is-setgha morali. Din la tigi mis-sahha tal-ligi jew mill-qawwa tad-drawwiet, la hi sempliciment politika u lanqas ma tistrieh fuq xi tip ta’ forza istituzzjonali, ekonomika jew fuq xi dritt pozittiv. Is-setgha morali ta’ persuna tigi mir-rispett u l-fiducja li n-nies ikollhom f’dik il-persuna, mhux ghal ragunijiet esterjuri ghaliha, imma fiha nnifisha, ghax jaraw fiha kwalitajiet gholja ta’ personalità awtentika. Dawn il-kwalitajiet aktarx jinkludu l-koerenza bejn il-kliem u l-fatti tal-persuna, sens qawwi ta’ sagrificcju personali u nuqqas ta’ kompromessi mal-principji li thaddan il-persuna. Din is-setgha tista’ tissejjah ‘spiritwali’ u, b’mod aktar wiesgha, tista’ tghodd ukoll (ghalkemm b’mod differenti) ghall-istituzzjonijiet u l-ghamla ta’ kif jorganizzaw lilhom infushom u jahdmu ma’ haddiehor.


Nuqqas istituzzjonali

Ghaldaqstant, kull setgha politika, ekonomika, militari, religjuza, socjali, familjari u l-bqija, jekk ma jkollhiex ukoll setgha morali, fl-ahhar mill-ahhar ma titqiesx xierqa ta’ rispett. Din hi l-problema ewleniija li ghandhom il-bicca tal-istituzzjonijiet illum u l-amministraturi taghhom (inkluz dawk religjuzi): tonqoshom is-setgha morali. Huma b’sahhithom politikament, ekonomikament jew socjalment, imma dghajjfa hafna moralment. Hu ghalhekk li aktarx jitilfu r-rispett u l-fiducja tan-nies.

Dan in-nuqqas ta’ rispett u fiducja taghna f’istituzzjonijiet u amministraturi bhal dawn, però, mhuwiex ghajr twegiba ghan-nuqqas fundamentali ta’ rispett u fiducja li huma wrew―u ghadhom juru―lejna u fina. Ghax istituzzjonijiet li huma nieqsa mis-setgha morali jqieghdu l-interessi taghhom infushom fuq kull interess taghna, specjalment taz-zghir u ta’ min ma jistax jiddefendi lilu nnifsu quddiem is-setgha taghhom. Izommuna bhala inferjuri u sottomessi ghalihom u, fl-ahhar mill-ahhar, ma jemmnux fis-siwi l-aktar gholi tal-individwalità taghna.

Istituzzjonijiet minghajr setgha morali―inkluz istituzzjonijiet religjuzi―huma istituzzjonijiet minghajr umanità.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Ir-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum (13)

IT-TLETTAX-IL PARTI

Fir-realtà, x’effetti konkreti qed ihallu l-qaghda tal-Kattolicizmu fil-gzejjer Maltin, il-prattika Kattolika, il-firda tar-religjon mill-ispiritwalità, id-diversifikazzjoni qawwija tal-fenomenu religjuz f’Malta u Ghawdex, u r-religjonijet emergenti, l-aktar dik Islamika, fil-hajja socjali u politika tal-gzejjer Maltin?

Privileggi politici

Digà semmejna aktar kmieni li, ghallanqas fuq livell ufficjali jew burokratiku, l-amministrazzjoni governattiva tkompli temmen fil-predominanza kulturali tal-Knisja Kattolika. Fil-fatt, dan forsi jkompli jishaq il-qawwa folkloristika ta’ din il-religjon fil-gzejjer Maltin, haga li l-gvern aktarx iqisha importanti li jibqa’ jaghraf, imqar ghas-siwi romantiku tal-haga jew ghall-konvenjenza politika tieghu.

Imma min-naha tal-Knisja Kattolika jidher li hemm siwi aktar minn hekk. Xejn xejn, dan jibqa’ xi ftit jew wisq jassigura l-harsien tal-privileggi politici li kisbet matul is-sekli, anki jekk il-bazi popolari taghha―f’termini ta’ membri prattikanti―manifestament gie imnaqqas bil-kbir. Bhall-gvern taghha, il-bicca l-kbira tal-poplu taghna ghandha thobb ir-romanticizmu u t-teatralità Kattolika, anki jekk predominantement m’ghadhiex temmen fil-Knisja Kattolika bhala istituzzjoni u lanqas f’certi oqsma tat-twemmin taghha. Dan narawh, nghidu ahna, mill-konkorrenza tan-nies ghall-festi religjuzi popolari―li jekk tnehhilhom il-baned, il-loghob tan-nar, ir-retorika u d-dillirji taghhom ftit jibqaghalhom sugu spiritwali jew religjuz―u anki ghall-konkorrenza tan-nies f’celebrazzjonijiet religjuzi bhal dawk tad-duluri, il-gimgha l-kbira u l-purcissjonijiet bl-irxoxt.

Ghazla fit-twemmin

Izda apparti dan il-lat purament folkloristiku li ghad fadlilha fostna r-religjon Kattolika, fuq livell aktar individwali u privat, jidher li decizjonijiet konkreti li jmissu mal-hajja socjali u morali tal-bicca l-kbira tal-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi jittiehdu separatament u, xi kultant, f’oppozizzjoni ghat-taghlim Kattoliku. Jidher li ghall-bicca l-kbira tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin, dan il-qasam m’ghadux mahkum jew ikkontrollat minn dak li temmen u tghid il-Knisja Kattolika.

Hawnhekk aktarx naraw l-affermazzjoni tal-individwu ’l fuq u lil hinn minn kull istituzzjoni―religjuza u mhux―li tista’ tiddettalu (jew tipprezuni li ghandha tiddettalu) kif jghix il-hajja personali tieghu.

F’dan is-sens, il-bicca l-kbira tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin tidher li saret taghzel dak li temmen u dak li ma temminx, specjalment fl-oqsma tal-edukazzjoni, is-sahha u l-morali. Dak li, fuq livell personali, ma jdoqqilhiex bhala razzjonali jew sensibbli, jew anki bhala prattiku jew siewi, aktarx twarrbu minghajr l-icken bizgha ta’ xi retribuzzjoni umana jew divina. Certament, is-sens ripressiv li kellu t-twemmin fi zminijiet ohra tista’ tghid li prattikament ixxejjen kwazi ghal kollox.

Applikazzjoni konkreta

Il-bidla tal-oghla awtoritajiet tal-Knisja Kattolika f’Malta u Ghawdex ftit snin ilu, ghalkemm ghenet biex taghti dehra aktar affabbli u grazzjuza lit-tmexxija Kattolika, aktarx m’ghamlet ebda effett fuq livell strutturali, f’Malta aktar minn f’Ghawdex. Infatti, ma jidhirx li gabet xi bidliet istituzzjonali sinifikattivi fi hdan il-Knisja Kattolika lokali, la fil-politika ekklezjastika u lanqas fil-vizjoni socjali. Jekk din il-linja ta’ azzjoni tippersisti, il-fenomeni li dghajjfu din il-knisja f’dawn l-ahhar ftit ghexieren ta’ snin aktarx se jkomplu jippersistu wkoll. Anzi, wiehed jista’ jobsor li bidla superficjali bhal din ghandha l-hila zzid dawn il-fenomeni minhabba l-frustrazzjoni u d-dizappunt li jistghu jkabbru f’min ittama li l-bidla fit-tmexxija tista’ taghmel xi effett konkret, specjalment mil-lat politiku.

L-oghla awtoritajiet tal-Knisja Kattolika lokali llum jidher li ghadhom mhumiex konxji jew konvinti li aktarx hu biss bl-applikazzjoni konkreta tal-principji tat-taghlim socjali tat-twemmin taghhom li jistghu jergghu jiksbu xi ftit minn dik il-fiducja li l-bicca l-kbira tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin kellhom fil-Knisja Kattolika fl-imghoddi. Dan jidher li m’ghandux ifisser haga ohra ghajr li qabel kollox il-mexxejja ekklezjastici jridu jibdlu, mhux lil haddiehor halli jizfen ghall-muzika taghhom, imma l-ewwel jibdew jibdlu l-perspettiva u l-vizjoni tal-istruttura interna taghhom stess. Jidher li, jekk dan ma jsirx, il-Knisja Kattolika lokali se tkompli tirrendi lilha nnifisha socjalment aktar irrelevanti milli digà hi.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Ir-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum (12)

IT-TNAX-IL  PARTI

Meta nitkellmu dwar religjositajiet jew spiritiwalitajiet ta’ xejra ‘moderna’, l-ewwel ma forsi ghandhom jigi f’mohhna f’dan ir-rigward huwa x-xjentologisti. Il-Knisja tax-Xjentologija bdiet fis-snin hamsin tas-seklu l-iehor minn Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911–1986) u hija mifruxa mad-dinja kollha. Fil-gzejjer taghna l-bosta Maltin u Ghawdxin li xi ftit jew wisq jemmnu fit-taghlim xjentolgu mhumiex ftit. Minkejja li dawn jidher li jzommu profil baxx fix-xena pubblika, il-prezenza taghhom fil-fenomenu religjuz tas-socjetà Maltija kontemporanja aktarx ma tistax titqies insinifikanti.

Drittijiet umani

Twemmin iehor, forsi anqas maghruf bhala tali, imma b’daqshekk mhux anqas ‘religjuz’, huwa dak fid-drittijiet tal-bniedem. Id-‘Dikjarazzjoni Universali tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem’, maghmula mill-Gnus Maghquda fl-1948, tista’ titqies bhala l-quccata ta’ riflessjoni relattivament gdida dwar il-bniedem u l-hajja tieghu f’kull aspett taghha. Izda dan id-dokument ta wkoll bidu ghal moviment dinji kbir li jistqarr twemmin kwazi ghami fl-istqarrijiet tieghu, tant li xi whud jirregolaw il-hajja u l-agir taghhom b’dawn l-istqarrijiet u ohrajn li johorgu minnhom, u anki jissottomettu ghalihom kull kunsiderazzjoni politika, socjali u ekonomika ohra li jaghmlu. Din l-ispiritwalità tezisti wkoll fil-gzejjer Maltin u ghal xi whud hija bizzejjed wehidha sabiex tiggwidalhom hajjithom.

Wara li ghedna dan kollu, qabel ma nkomplu fir-riflessjonijiet taghna forsi xieraq hawnhekk li nigbru fi ftit kliem dak li ghedna s’issa fuq il-qaghda tar-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum.

Il-Kattolicizmu Malti

L-ewwel punt essenajli li jidher li jehtieg li naghmlu huwa dwar il-qaghda tal-Kattolicizmu fil-gzejjer Maltin. Huwa xi ftit jew wisq car li, ghalkemm ir-religjon Kattolika ghad ghandha fostna siwi kbir folkloristiku, ir-relevanza kulturali taghha naqqset konsiderevolment. Fil-bicca l-kbira taghha, l-identità Maltija m’ghadhiex tigi identifikata mal-Kattolicizmu jekk mhux f’termini primarjament folkloristici. Dan minkejja li, ufficjalment, kontra r-realtà tal-fatti l-Knisja Kattolika ghadha meqjusa mill-istat civili bhala r-religjon li tirrapprezenta l-bicca l-kbira tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin.

It-tieni punt aktarx ghandu jorbot mal-prattika Kattolika. Skond l-ahhar statistici, anqas minn nofs il-popolazzjoni jipprattikaw it-twemmin Kattoliku fil-gzejjer Maltin. Jidher li l-bicca l-kbira tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin abbandunaw ghal kollox dan it-twemmin. Min-naha l-ohra, jidher xi ftit jew wisq car li bosta minn dawk li huma prattikanti ma jsegwux xi whud mid-direttivi tal-Knisja taghhom f’diversi oqsma tal-hajja morali taghhom, specjalment dawk li jorbtu mas-sesswalità.

Spiritwalità u diversifikazzjoni

It-tielet, jidher li bicca kbira mill-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi sar jifred ir-religjon mill-ispiritwalità. Bosta nies aktarx ghadhom jemmnu f’Alla u, partikularment, f’Gesù Kristu, imma minghajr dan ma jimplika partecipazzjoni jew assocjazzjoni f’xi knisja jew religjon istituzzjonali. Dawn in-nies jidher li aktar jippreferu li jhaddnu relazzjoni mhux istituzzjonalizzata mad-divin milli jhaddnu strutturi religjuzi li hafna drabi huma mmexxijin minn hafna kunsiderazzjonijiet politici.

Ir-raba’, ghandna evidenza ta’ diversifikazzjoni qawwija tal-fenomenu religjuz f’Malta u Ghawdex. Bosta nies saru jhaddnu spiritwalitajiet personalizzati li jinsistu aktar fuq is-shuhija tal-prattika milli fuq xi kumplikazzjonijiet religjuzi ta’ natura teoretika. It-teorija religjuza jidher li mhijiex afdata daqskemm mhumiex afdati, ghallanqas mhux fl-intier taghhom, l-istituzzjonijiet b’mod generali u l-istituzzjonijiet religjuzi b’mod partikulari.


Religjonijiet emergenti

Fl-ahharnett, hemm il-fatt tar-religjonijet emergenti, l-aktar dik Islamika. Ghalkemm generalment imwarrba mill-ghajn pubblika, din il-religjon qieghda bil-mod il-mod dejjem tikber fil-gzejjer Maltin. Ghalissa dan il-fatt jidher li mhuwiex rikonoxxut la ufficjalment u lanqas mill-hassieba lokali, imma aktarx ma jkunux ghaddew wisq snin meta r-religjon Islamika f’Malta u, forsi b’mod anqas, f’Ghawdex tibda tezercita certa influss socjali sinifikanti li ma jkunx jista’ jigi injorat aktar.

Dawn kollha mhumiex fenomeni li qeghdin isehhu fi hdan il-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi biss. Wiehed aktarx jista’ jilmahhom ukoll f’diversi pajjizi ohra tad-dinja, specjalment fil-punent.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Crucifix and its removal

The Most Holy Cross and, more specifically, the Crucifix, are a Christian’s most beautiful and noble symbol of the Faith. They depict, in graphic terms, the most perfect Word of God to us, who expresses Himself best in silence, and accomplishes best when immobile. I believe that the Cross or, better, the Crucifix, is the best school of Faith.

There was a time when the Most Holy Cross/Crucifix was shown everywhere. And yet, the world was still a depressing and highly dangerous place, as some maintain it is today. We had, and still have, the Cross flaunted in our courtrooms, and yet judges and chief-judges were bribed, and people still bear false witness. We had, and still have, the Cross flaunted in our homes, and yet people still commit adultery, swear, mistreat their wives, husbands and children. We had, and still have, the Cross flaunted in our streets, and yet people still abuse each other. So on and so forth. My point is that it is not flaunting the Cross that is a true sign of Faith, but gratitude to God’s love expressed in charity.

Very often, in the past the Most Holy Cross was used not as a sign of spirituality, but as a foretoken of a religious institution; not as witness to Faith, but as a sign of power and domination; not as assurance of service and love, but as an imposition of authority and compliance. People have murdered in the name of the Most Holy Cross. Unfortunately, that is how some people still see it today: as a political emblem.

Of course, the Most Holy Cross is still used as an institutional badge by Christians who do not consider spirituality to be good enough on its own, but who also insist that it should be translated into a religion. They transmute an intimate relationship into an institutional tool, and thus confuse one with the other, even in social and political terms.

The Most Holy Cross testifies God’s universal and uncompromising love and respect. I understand ‘uncompromising’ to mean hundred percent in each case, and ‘universal’ to mean unlimited by human conventions, distinctions, designations, frontiers or any other separation of any kind, be it religious, political, economical, etc. I understand this to mean that the Cross itself does not allow disrespect or separations, and as such must not be used in any public place where its presence can suggest as much. Therefore, its unnecessary presence is implied in itself. If a teacher in a public school or a judge in a public courtroom holds the Cross to signify his or her personal spirituality (and that is surely good and noble), it does not follow that the Cross needs to be flaunted for all, irrespective of their beliefs or convictions. The spirituality of the Cross can (and, I think, should) be expressed in the values that it represents, and this on a personal level, but not necessarily as an imposition (which the very concept of the Cross refutes).

My whole point is that who really believes in the Most Holy Cross (not as a political tool, but as a sign of a personal relationship) does not fear its being removed from public places. On the contrary, so that its personal and intimate signification will be better appreciated, and its abuse as an institutional weapon will be the more evaded and desisted, such a person should be pleased by the removal. To put it in other (perhaps more polemical) words, all Christians should be more, though of course not only, content with the spread of Jesus’ spirituality and values than by the consolidation of its institutionalization, which always tends to obliterate the former.

This may indeed be a depressing and highly dangerous world, but not because the Most Holy Cross is being removed from public places, but because it has been long removed from people’s hearts, Christians or Catholics none the less, as a personal and intimate relationship, and replaced with a meaning that retains solely political and institutional significance.

Fearing secularisation

It has become very frequent that some people, particularly committed Catholics, to express an earnest fear of secularisation. The word seems to conjure up in their mind a myriad of hideous evils: impiety, licentiousness, decadence, shamelessness, and many more iniquities. The very terms ‘secular society’ seem to be simply and univocally identified with ungodliness. Of course, considering this frame of mind, it is perfectly understandable that such people feel threatened by secularisation or even terrified out of their wits by the prospect that Malta and Gozo are slowly and surely succumbing to such a prospect. It is possible, however, that such dread may well be injudicious.

In political philosophy, the term ‘secularisation’ (or, more specifically, ‘secularisation of the State’) generally refers to the separation of State and Church. Though the term itself was not explicitly used in this sense before the mid-19th century (by George Holyoake, for instance), the concept has a long history, perhaps starting (not from any modern European Christian matrix but) from medieval Muslim polymaths like Ibn Rushd in the 12th century. Of course, perhaps more significant to our times, the concept gained effective currency by Enlightenment thinkers (like Diderot, Locke, Madison and others), freethinkers, agnostics and atheists (like Russell and Ingersoll, for instance).

In a more popular, concrete (and perhaps less technical) usage of the term, the secularisation of the State is probably understood to mean the concerted removal by the State of any reference to religion or to God. A case in point is the well-known debate in 2003 on the exclusion of the word ‘God’ from the EU Constitution. (Obviously, a secularised State does not mean a secularised society, because privately citizens can continue to believe whatever pleases them.)

This usage of the term, however, reflects a negative perspective on the issue. The positive side is that the secularised State vigorously promotes values such as tolerance, equality, pluralism, mutual respect, accessibility, diversity, solidarity, and the like. Surely, such values do not necessarily imply the hideous evils that some people associate with the term ‘secularisation’. On the contrary, a thorough Christian spirituality cannot not recognize in them very much of its own morals and ideals.

This means that, while insisting on removing any reference to religion or to God, a secularised State endorses and advocates profound Christian values. The former, to wit, is not an end in itself, but a means to the latter. And this should please, not terrify or intimidate, Catholics. Is it not this that we Catholics intensely desire, namely, to see the values that we rightly hold as dear to thrive, grow and flourish? Is it not through such a diffusion that, as has been aptly said, “a world that strongly resembles the one we are waiting for” is built? If this is not the case, than it stands to reason that, deep down, our intentions are merely political, not spiritual.

I submit that, if we truly value our spiritual values, and not merely our void cultural or political status, we Catholics should stop considering our country’s progression towards its being a secularised State as a menace or as a calamity. Ultimately, we stand to gain, not to lose, from this. I trust that, for the sake of the future in our country of the Church that we love so dearly, rather than combat secularism or demonize it, it appears to be wiser to support its upright values, and thus avoid provoking non-religiousness from lapsing into irreligiousness. For this is exactly what we are doing by defending our mere traditional, cultural or political status.

Is it so difficult to read the writing on the wall?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ir-religjon fis-socjetà Maltija llum (11)

IL-HDAX-IL PARTI

L-insara Ortodossi jew Protestanti li hawn f’Malta ghad m’ghandhomx fostna qafas religjuz bizzejjed zviluppat istituzzjonalment biex jasserixxu lilhom infushom b’mod aktar ufficjali u pubbliku, u forsi ghalissa lanqas huma interessati hafna f’dan. Imma ’l quddiem aktarx li din is-sitwazzjoni ma tibqax hekk u l-affarijiet ikollhom jinbidlu halli jinholoq spazju ghalihom ukoll.

Tkabbir ta’ religjonijiet

Xi whud jistghu jaraw il-prezenza ta’ dawn ir-religjonijiet u t-tkabbir taghhom bhala xi tip ta’ intruzjoni jew anki ta’ theddida ghal dik li jobsru hija l-identità Maltija. Il-verità hi li dawn il-fenomeni jaghmlu parti integrali minn din l-identità, li, fl-ahhar mill-ahhar (bhalma rajna fix-xbieha grafika ta’ fuq), hi xi haga li dejjem inbidlet, qieghda tinbidel u tibqa’ tinbidel.

Barra l-prezenza ta’ dawn ir-religjonijiet fil-gzejjer Maltin, wiehed ma jistax ma jaghrafx komunitajiet ohra stabbiliti istituzzjonalment li aktarx la huma mdaqqsa daqs dawk li ghadna kemm semmejna u lanqas qeghdin jikbru b’xi rata sinifikanti. Xi whud minn dawn il-komunitajiet ilhom fostna hafna snin, imma ma jidhirx li qatt influwenzaw b’xi mod effettiv il-hajja socjali, politika jew religjuza tal-gzejjer Maltin.


Prezenzi sinifikanti

Fost dawn il-kumunitajiet nistghu nsemmu dawk tal-Knisja Anglikana, tal-Knisja Skocciza, tal-Knisja Griega Ortodossa, tax-Xhud ta’ Gehova, tar-religjon Ebrajka, tal-Knisja Protestanta Germaniza, tal-Assemblea Spiritwali ta’ Bahija, tar-religjon Buddista Zen u tal-Era Gdida.

Dawn kollha―u forsi xi whud ohrajn ukoll―ghandhom xi tip ta’ prezenza fix-xena religjuza lokali. Minkejja dan, huwa dubjuz ferm kemm jitqiesu attrattivi ghall-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin jew qattx ezercitaw xi forza attrattiva ghall-bicca l-kbira taghhom. Infatti, probabbilment wiehed ma jistax iqis li l-imsiehba ta’ dawn il-kumunitajiet―kollha flimkien―qattx kienu jirregistraw xi persentagg sinifikanti fost il-popolazzjoni Maltija. U l-probabbilità l-kbira hi li, la ma rregistrawhx s’issa, mhumiex se jirregistrawh fil-gejjieni qarib.

Radikalità spiritwali

Però, wiehed ma jistax jinjorahom jekk irid jaghti kwadru shih tal-qaghda tar-religjon fostna. Naturalment, il-gejjieni hadd ma jaf x’jista’ jzomm u x’sorprizi jista’ jaqla’ minn taht ir-rih. Wiehed dejjem jitkellem dwar il-gejjieni f’termini ta’ probabbilitajiet u possibbiltajiet. Imma anki f’dan il-kuntest, wiehed ma jkunx wisq ’il boghod mis-sewwa jekk isostni li, b’mod generali, bhalma l-mentalità Maltija tal-imghoddi ma tidhirx li kienet wisq inklinata li thaddan dawn il-forom ta’ religjositajiet, il-mentalità Maltija gejjiena aktarx se tkun anqas u anqas inklinata li thaddanhom, ghallanqas mhux fil-gejjieni previdibbli.

Ir-raguni ghal dan tidher li hi l-istess wahda li aktarx qieghda timmina l-Knisja Kattolika lokali, jigifieri n-nuqqas ta’ radikalità spiritwali. Dan ma narawhx, nghidu ahna, fir-religjon Musulmana u l-Knisja Evangelika, zewg komunitajiet religjuzi li jidhru li (b’konsistenza differenti) qed izidu l-membri Maltin taghhom. In-nuqqas (kwazi fanatiku) ta’ kompromessi li dawn jitolbu mill-imsiehba taghhom, u n-nuqqas apparenti ta’ inkonsistenzi u kontradizzjonijiet fit-taghlim u t-twemmin li jhaddnu, aktarx jaghmilhom aktar attrattivi ghal certu nies li jhossu l-bzonn ta’ impenn spiritwali serju u bla kantunieri. Kemm dan, fit-tul taz-zmien, se jhalli effett pozittiv dejjiemi hu diskutibbli.


Spiritwalitajiet ohrajn

Min-naha l-ohra, dan it-trazzin ma jidhirx li japplika bl-istess mod jew bl-istess qawwa ghal religjositajiet jew spiritiwalitajiet ta’ xejra aktar ‘moderna’. B’mod partikulari, nirreferu hawnhekk ghal bosta spiritwalitajiet li huma mhaddnin mhux biss minn persuni fuq bazi individwali u privata, imma wkoll minn gruppi ta’ Maltin u Ghawdxin b’xi fasla organizzata bejniethom li hi xi ftit jew wisq fluwida. Hawnhekk, nuzaw il-kelma ‘spiritwalitajiet’ b’mod wiesgha hafna biex nirreferu ghal dawk is-suriet ta’ twemmin li, b’xi mod jew iehor, jirrikonoxxu xi tip ta’ realtà superjuri li hi xi ftit jew wisq distinta minn dawk li jemmnu fiha. Din ir-‘realtà’ tista’ ma tkunx meqjusa bhala xi divinità fiha nnifisha, imma mqar bhala xi haga li l-bniedem li jemmen fiha joqghod ghaliha bhala gwida ta’ hajja u agir.