Much more than a ftira
Travelling to Floriana these past weeks, my eyes fell on a billboard depicting a large ftira, a typical Maltese bread, close to Portes des Bombes. It is meant to rally people behind the Cultural Directorate’s application for the ftira to be included in Unesco’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
I’m no Gordon Ramsay, and the words on the billboard might sound a bit high-flown for such humble fare, but I like the idea of having the Maltese ftira on such a list.
This moves me to reflect on a characteristic that has long been a marker of our identity as a nation. The safeguarding of human life from conception, more than anything else, should be an intangible heritage of humanity, and we are called to be promoters of this.
We should all commit ourselves to the protection of human life from the very beginning, when it is at its most vulnerable and thus in need of protection. This is a matter of principle that does not depend on the people’s mandate. Should the people ever be in favour of cruelty to animals, one should oppose it wholeheartedly since this is a principle that does not depend on a popular mandate. The protection of human life is also a question of principle.
Safeguarding human life from conception, more than anything else, should be an intangible heritage of humanity
Sometimes it is said that our country is all alone in the protection of human life from conception. This does not shame us into silence, but rather this has the opposite effect on us. It galvanises us and makes us proud that for us, as a nation, human life is so precious that we wish the very best for the child when it is only a small number of cells. This sustained commitment to life is the very reason why we are qualified to promote a pro-life list as an intangible heritage of humanity.
Defending human life from its beginning should encourage us to work for a culture in favour of life at every stage. Whenever human life is in danger it should find us united to protect it. It may be that a person’s life is in danger of drowning at sea, waiting for someone to help. Another person’s life could be at risk because of his or her precarious living conditions. Other lives might be at risk due to pollution and the destruction of the environment.
Someone’s life might be in danger after being duped into thinking that so-called recreational drugs are the gateway to good times without consequences. It could also be that the life of a person who is old and infirm has been put on the shortlist for an expiration date.
Zero tolerance to all threats to life should be our default position. This attitude should also strengthen our commitment to help those who are suffering, particularly women who face difficulties in their pregnancy and who at times end up being the victims. We must give our support in every way to those women who endure all the burden and are left alone.
Those who cry out for our help must not find us indifferent. We must work together so that these women find the support they need during their hard times.
We cherish life with love. Certainly, having the ftira as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity is a matter of national pride. But, more importantly, let us also vigorously promote as intangible the safeguarding of human life right from its very beginning.
Mgr Joseph Galea-Curmi is Auxiliary Bishop of Malta.