The Malta Independent 20 October 2019, Sunday

Priest, Levite and Samaritan

Michael Asciak Sunday, 22 September 2019, 09:29 Last update: about 28 days ago

In the parable of the Good Samaritan there is a man laid waste by thieves who lies on the side of the road. This Jewish man, a victim of bad men and circumstances, lies injured and dying and a number of people come across him. There is a priest of the Old Testament who knows that God wishes us to show mercy to our neighbours, a Levite who was from a Hebrew tribe which served Jews in a religious, educational and political dicastery and a Samaritain whose tribe was considered outcasts, so the Jews did not mix with them and, as such, he was a man who was disliked by the Jews. We all know which of the three did what was expected of him and showed compassion to the neighbour who was in dire need.

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I see Fr David Muscat's position with the far right Lowell Group protesting in front of the Great Seige monument as resembling the attitude of the priest in the parable. His position as a priest obliges him to show mercy to people who find themselves in unfortunate situations in life, such as refugees and immigrants, but he chooses to pass on the other side of the road.

The same is true of the aspiring politicians who stood around him and others who have no qualms about identifying themselves as nominal catholics to the extent of having a priest address their rally. All of them should know that one of their fundamental obligations as Christians is solidarity but, again, they choose - for far right ideological reasons - to pass on the other side of the road. However, that is their chosen folly. They have decided to be racist, together with the priest with them, which is a trait that is, unfortunately, raising its ugly head all over not only Europe but the world.

Migration is imprinted into our DNA. There are several reasons why people wishing to have a better life move away from wars, corruption and famine, especially when the present means of communication show them the good life in Europe and America (North). Whatever the reason why people move there is a cause, as several Maltese of old migrated to other countries for a better life and many still do so today due to work expediencies.

Much of the objection to today's migration patterns is that they have a different skin colour, race or religion so, ergo, this satisfies the definition of racism. Certain people feel sufficiently insecure to consider these people as a sub-human threat and as genetically inferior - not realising, of course, that they share about 99.999 per cent of their genes. This, of course, shows the level of their own personal insecurities and perceptions and so they try to create political scenarios that are profoundly inhuman and move away from our traditions of humanism and solidarity.

They often point to the effects of immigration and the influx of refugees and forget to mention that we have very little control over the cause. Neither do they mention how we ought to deal with the influx effect. If it was left to them, they would deal exclusively inhumanely. But this is not in-line with our national - or European - heritage, neither is it in line with the international law of the sea.

The solutions they propose would make things worse as they seek to end European and international co-operation in dealing with the issue and grovel to cut themselves off from the rest of the world. The immigration phenomenon is like diabetes. You cannot make it go away but you can control it - with the help of international and European cooperation and agencies that seek to address the causes and mitigate its effects. To them, the solution is to cross over to the other side of the road and let them die, literally.

What also irritates me about the extreme right wing with which Fr David Muscat associates is their attitude to religion. They base their present narrative on issues of 500 years ago, when things and mentalities were rather different and the narrative of  expansionist plans of state were often clouded in the mantra of religion.

This is a worrying trait amongst many Maltese people who are still stuck in the mentality of The Crusades, which is why it makes Lowell, David Muscat and his ilk so dangerous as they try to play to a warped sentiment. It was, in my opinion, laudable for a naturalised Maltese of the Muslim faith to address the gathering to commemorate the Great Seige this year, a seige during which many Ottoman Muslims also fell.

Today, 500 years after the event, the emphasis is on finding common ground of moderation between people of different races and religions - a point that Pope Francis is going so far out of his way to point out with Jews, Muslims and Buddhists.

His visit to The United Arab Emirates, his visits to several synagogues and his forthcoming visits to Thailand and Japan all show the correct attitude a Christian should have when addressing people of different religions. He has also signed an official document with the Grand Imam Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together during a global conference on the topic in Abu Dhabi.

Maybe these are the signs of the times at which Fr Muscat should be looking, rather than the Crusades of 700 years ago. This is especially so with the monotheistic religions which have so much in common and share several aspects of revelation.

I personally find the allegation that they worship a different God difficult to accept. What is, of course, different is the extent to which they accept the level of God's revelation to man, the religion they practice, but to say that Muslims adore a different God is difficult to conceive unless we are also ready to say that Jews adore a different God to us. We often say that Jews are our elder brothers in the faith while Muslims - I like to say - are some of those other later brothers, faithful sheep of other folds, about which Christ speaks so clearly. Fr David Muscat would, of course, put a torch to all this!

When Don Luigi Sturzo, founder of the centrist Popular Party in Italy, stood at his window looking at the facsists under Mussolini march into Rome, it was said by those with him that he turned to the wall and cried. He cried not only because he could foresee the forthcoming disaster wrought by the extreme right of fascism, but also because he saw several priests marching with the blackshirts. He considered this a betrayal of their vocation.

Sturzo also cried because several politicians from the moderate wing of the Socialist Party, from the liberal parties and even from his own centrist party, were unable to unite to keep the facsists out, but rather helped them form the first government under Mussolini which led to the dark night entering Italy.

Sturzo also wept because the Vatican, under Pius XI, pandered to Mussolini in the hope that the question of the Vatican State could be resolved and, as a result, he found it expedient to practically disown the centrist Partito Popolare with dire consequences. It is to Sturzo's credit that he never lost faith in the Church because he firmly believed that the Church was Christ's while the Pope's actions were those of Peter. There is a lesson for everyone here: the politicians, the Church leaders and the public in general!

 

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