Can Malta be at peace with itself?

We are in the Christmas festive season, a time when the message of peace is emphasised and transmitted to all and sundry – a message so important that our political parties declare a temporary ‘truce’ until the season is over and the message of peace can be ignored.

A recent report on the activities of most non-Catholic schoolchildren during religion lessons tells it all: they do nothing
- Michael Falzon

In Christianity, the message originates from the angel who, according to the gospels, had announced Christ’s birth by proclaiming peace on earth and to men of goodwill.

Historians claim that these words echo Roman imperial propaganda with some scholars claiming that they are a near parody of one of the Emperor’s titles at the time: ‘Son of God, Lord, Saviour of the World, and the One Who Has Brought Peace on Earth.’

Whether the resemblance is accidental or whether the gospel story is a clever and interesting spin, is a moot point. The angel’s reported message is still a simple joyous proclamation of the hope for peace among men.

Before Christianity hijacked the old pagan festivity of the winter solstice, and adopted it for Christmas, the message was again one of hope: the annual observance of the point when days starting to get longer and nights shorter celebrated the despair of the dark night succumbing to the hope of light.

Notwithstanding its general acclamation and acceptance, the effectiveness of the message of peace, has always historically faced a very difficult and tortuous path.

In the story of civilisation, there have been more periods of war than of peace. Indeed, there is probably not even one year in humanity’s history when a war was not being fought somewhere on earth.

Many wars have been fought in the name of God by both sides. In western civilisation, we do not seem to realise the contradiction in service chaplains accompanying people sent to kill other people or in using Cathedrals as places where to deposit tributes to military victories as a sign of gratitude to God – the same God who sent his Son to bring peace on earth.

Yet, every year we pass on the message of peace to each other and keep hoping.

What every human being must strive to do, in the first place, is to find peace within himself or herself. I believe many political conflicts that swell into national – and even international – disputes are the result of the wrong decisions provoked by personal ego problems.

This is evident in the history of warfare but is also evident at a lower plane in the local scene. I need not mention names but it is obvious that in the last few years there were too many instances where the importance of one’s ego was considered to be superior to common sense.

Finding inner peace is not easy but it should be the first thing that every human being must seek. For how can people be at peace with the world if they are not at peace with themselves?

At this point in our history, therefore, I think it would be a good idea to ask whether Malta is at peace with itself. Unfortunately, the answer is negative.

The abusive notions of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘tit for tat’ dealing – whether tacit or overt – have corrupted our society.

Politics is not about demonising and attacking people on a personal level. Nor is it about abusing your right to vote for personal advancement. An MP can do it and the ordinary voter does it with impunity. All of us are to blame – not just the politicians, or the judiciary, or the forces of law and order. After all, they are just a reflection of our society.

The only conclusion one can reach when considering recent and not so recent events is that the country is in a crisis. It is not just a crisis that can be overcome by much needed Constitutional and institutional reforms. It is also a crisis provoked by a lack of values.

The problem is that many cannot distinguish between the trappings of the Catholic religion and its basic values. Many of us have shaken off the stifling influence of the Church on our society and have thrown the trappings of what were our religious beliefs overboard. In doing this, the values that were linked to our beliefs have also been discarded.

Replacing the old religious values with ethics and humanistic values is proving to be a difficult task and the country is having to pay for the consequences of a moral vacuum.

A recent report on the activities of most non-Catholic schoolchildren during religion lessons tells it all: they do nothing. Hopefully, the idea of ethics being taught to all, irrespective of creed and ethnicity, will be adopted.

The Christmas lull before the country switches to full election mode should this year serve everybody to stop in their tracks and think.

• May I take this opportunity to wish the editor and staff of The Sunday Times and all readers a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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