Friday, November 6, 2009

The battle for the cross

Ever since the battle of Milvian bridge in which Constantine fought under the banner of the cross to become Emperor, the cross never ceased to be a political symbol.
As i had predicted the decision of the European Human Right Court has galvanized a traditionalist conservative right both in Italy and in Malta. People in the street are already blaming this decision against "Europe"-(even if the European Union has nothing to do with this decision) We are entering very dangerous and unchartered waters.
With defenders like Berlusconi who has no qualms on sending immigrants back to Libya, the cross is once again a tool in the hand of aspiring emperors.
Even the arguments leveled against the court's decision by our Archbishop are gross. For nobody has censored the cross. The Court only found the exhibition of one particular religious symbol in public building discriminatory. The decision would have been the same if any other religious symbol was exposed in a public building. Neither is the court forcing any country to remove crosses. It is merely offering compensation to those who presented a case of discrimination.
At the same time I don't want to play ball with the conservatives who would like to pit secularists against religious symbols.
I trust that in this case governments will respect the rule of law and abide to the court's final decision. That is why we all take pride in the fact that in 1986 Malta accepted the jurisdiction of this court after long years of protests by the Nationalist opposition against human right violations.
This court offered us safeguards against a repetition of gross human rights abuses. All talk of disregarding the authority of this court is a threat to these safeguards.
That said, Maltese progressive should not be diverted in to a battle against the crucifix. This is exactly what the Maltese right wants.
The real battle is that against censorship and against the imposition of dominant lifestyles through the ban on divorce and other laws limiting people's choices.
I have no contention with religion or the church. I have deep respect for the cross which for me stands out as a symbol of liberation and compassion and an iconic representation of the cruelty of the death penalty.
My contention is against a confessional state. The ban on Realta has shown the willingness of the state to use the repressive state apparatus to clamp down on freedom of expression.
In Italy they still have the cross in class rooms (thanks to a law introduced by the Mussolini who was so Christian that he bombed Ethiopia with poison gas and allied his country with Hitler) BUT they there they have divorce, reproductive rights and the Catholic religion is no longer the state religion.
If we can have all that while still having a cross in the class room ...i might be willing to pay the price.

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