To have an intimate relationship with the Lord implies that you are free from every human being, and first of all from your heart. I understand that your gathering with your people – the people of the village or the members of your denomination – is an emotional affinity, converging dispositions, factionalism of history and warmth. However, you do not come from them, since your depth has nothing to do with flesh and blood, and it should not be the captive of history. There [in your depth] should be no trace of fear, since fear produces seclusion and seclusion needs that warmth, which makes you from your people, or part of them.

But if you have descended from above, where you were sitting with God, even when you walk on this earth, heaven becomes your entrance to the people, and you become their referee to heaven. Through you, the people search for the Lord of heaven and they act here as if they are the people of heaven. Thus, when they come to you, they would not do so because of any factionalism or being driven by the power of their covets, since they know that you do not share their covets. Rather, a power drives you, which is neither from the reality of the people’s compactness, nor from their collective outrage, which is the outcome of their arrogance.

I understand that the bond of doctrine [similar belief] prompts you to serve your people, however service does not imply endorsement. You endorse your brother against injustice, i.e. whenever he becomes the victim of injustice. However, you do not endorse him whenever he himself wrongs, simply because there is kinship or unity of religion between you and him. Religion comes from God, however it does not reach to all souls, or it reaches broken up, parted or distorted. You are not responsible for this person, in his incongruity. No doubt, that you are his shepherd, but you are [also] the shepherd of the Other, and you sacrifice for the shepherd and the shepherded.

You belong only to the parish of the people of God, and with them you have a covenant of obedience to God, who gathers you all. Among them, you are responsible for the poor and the simple ones, since God is the share of those poor and simple. And if you were prosperous, approach them, so that they might know that salvation in the world is given by some loving persons. Let those who are in need be your community of love, i.e., those who know that God satisfies them by the blessings of the earth and comforts them by whatever God communicates them in their hearts and whatever God grants them of the whiffs of Spirit.

However, those communities, which are originated through divine Spirit and the souls are lightened by them, are born at the dawn of goodness. They are neither from space nor time; they are not localized in them. That is why the rule of the crowd does not apply on them. Thus, they are dispersed without any power, since they do not pride themselves on whatever they own. Further, whatever they own means nothing to them, since they think that as much as they become needy to God as more they become strong and resolute. Whenever they are stripped, God becomes their clothing, and whenever they hunger, God becomes their food. Thus, according to the standards of this world, they do not exist. Nevertheless, you feel their absence whenever they disappear.

Let no one think that I become sad whenever I see e.g. the contiguousness of the Muslim to the Muslim or the Christian to the Christian. There is in every community tradition, which is to be considered, and each denomination might have good natures and social behaviors which carry peace and spiritual pourings, that heal the weary soul. The whole issue is how you approach, whether on personal or group level, those who belong to your own spiritual community and those who do not belong to it. The meaning of ‘denomination’ here in Lebanon is obscure. On the level of the heart you support it, since it is the heir of God, in its teaching and prayer. However, you do not belong to it in its social activity, since you should be motivated for your nation, and there are no small nationalisms within the large nationalism. You do not have a denominational alignment unless because of the state’s restrictions. And if you were a Christian, you align yourself with your believing brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and this means nothing on the worldly level, except what we call works of compassion. Thus, there is no solidarity opposing a different solidarity, and factionalism vanishes here.

Hence, I want to say that doctrines and love are two completely different things within the religious domain. On the level of the doctrine you are united with its followers and God sees this and it has its [special] articulations in worship. However, love is absolutely one for all people. You do good to the believer in your religion and to the one who does not believe in it, and you support the defenders of the truth and you move with your heart for action [in that concern].

From this point of view I do not understand the meaning of nation [̓Ummah], as the Muslims use the term. I do not deny for the Muslim to be a brother of another Muslim in doctrines, however this does not lead to lining up [with him]. The pillars of Islam are different and they [inspire] unity. But unity of the heart is one with all people, including pagans and atheists, since God has united Godself with them, through that which Christians call the Fatherhood of God.

The nation is the nation of God, as it is used in the Qur’an, and if you want to use it in this sense without further developing it, I do not mind. Then, you have to search for another term, which designates the national group, in order that you feel yourself belonging to it and part of it. It is clear that the national group is an organizational entity, or we have made it organizational because of the national unity, we have convened upon. Similarly, the denomination is an organizational entity, founded on a religious belief. The national front is a group, without religion, that is why whenever it speaks of a religious state – and this has been relinquished in Christian nations – it implies that its constitutive law is inspired by divine law. This is the case in Islamic countries, while there is no such Christian legislation, thus, there is no possibility for a Christian state. Therefore, the existence of a national front, united by national spirit and faithfulness to the state, is inevitable. [In such a national front] there would be no faithfulness to any religious belief and there would be no possibility to refute any religious belief, since otherwise, the state would be abolished and it would become a church or a divine nation, as it is the case in Islam. In other words, you are compelled to secularism whenever you want to found a state in its modern sense, i.e., where the distinction is kept between the divine and the worldly givens.

We in Lebanon are not bound, as a state, to a divine given. That is why we have contented ourselves with the denominations, as they themselves consent, without disputing their religious bases.

Thus, it is possible that a group of denominations has a similar national position, since this position is based on national interests, which are from this world.

There is no doubt that the origin of this modern thought lies in [the thought] of Enlightenment-philosophers of the eighteenth century. Before that period there was neither a modern state nor religious freedom. Nothing convinces me that a religious state might recognize total freedom of religions. It might recognize the circulation of offices among all citizens and freedom of worship; however it would not admit the limitless extension of other religions, the endless religious dialogue, mission and evangelism.

We have today partisan coalitions from different denominations. This is good in itself and it might be partly a guarantee for the avoidance of religious or sectarian wars. However, this does not mean that we have eradicated the essence of denominational tension, whenever political situation is changed. I wish that this would mean that we separate between religion and war. And I wish – if we were all honest – that we eradicate the essence of war in a lived secularism, though not all of us admit it theoretically.

Whenever peace dwells – and it is one of God’s attributes – we examine the religious social concerns, the possibility of religious dialogues and the meeting among the religions, in the social domain, in a brotherly atmosphere. And we may do that in the theoretical domain as well, in order that we might struggle against [both] theoretical and social isolation.

It consoles me, the Orthodox Christian, that tomorrow we commemorate a saint, lived in the fourteenth century, and called Gregory Palamas. [Palamas] emphasized the old Christian belief that we share in some divine eternal powers, and thus we come spiritually from the same God in terms of sanctification, as we all come from God through creation, without penetrating the divine essence, since that would be polytheism. When would the Lebanese people become deified (and the term [in Arabic] is of Islamic origin)? That is, when would the Lebanese people assume the divine characters (and the phrase is again Islamic)?

All other perceptions are temporal mending. The country is not founded only on laws and institutions. These are good and necessary. [However,] the country should be founded on purity, and this is called – in political terms – combating corruption. As for the purity of the ministers and the representatives of the nation and its officials, this is the highest level of combating corruption. This implies that our people approach God honestly and bravely, until God becomes – in our minds – the king of the country, as it is in God’s essence. When would we admit that in our obedience to God we would have a better life, or even the best life? This is our true freedom, which whenever associated to public freedoms, it raises us unto great manifestations.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الحرية الكاملة” –An Nahar- 03.03.2007