Today, Friday 14th/ March/2014 there came a group of young men and women, university students to our Latin Cathedral of St. Joseph and St. Teresa for a meeting over the theme of “Understanding Religion,” presented by Msgr. George Panamthundil, the first secretary of our Apostolic Nuncio in the Vatican Embassy. There were no communication obstacles, though the latter comes from an Indian origin, speaking nine languages except Arabic, addressing a youth from a Middle Eastern background. Before we used English as a medium to communicate, we used the language of love and communion.
As the Monsignor started his topic, there came to the main question of the meeting: “What is religion according to each one of you?” The youth’s answers were various and interesting. Some said it is a set of commandments and teachings through which our spiritual life is guided; other said it is a pathway to our life in general. Some other said that it is the method by which we understand God, our creator and father, while some said that religion is something much more beyond a set of rules to organize our life. But most of them said that it is a relationship of love with our heavenly father, with Jesus.
These answers stem out of the inner desire in each of these young men and women to understand the reasons beyond our belief in the infinite Being of God and His incarnated Son. And that was the essential purpose behind Msgr. George’s presentation. He focused on the fact that essence of religion comes from that inner desire God implanted in each one of us since the creation to reach Him. It is Him not man who initiated it in His own people even if they do not recognize the gesture or not recognize Him at all! All the ways of worship humankind use to reach that infinite Being or beings beyond them, is just a response to this desire; once it is acknowledged, it develops to be a real relationship of love.
In the meeting, there was great emphasis on religion is as a voluntary subjection of oneself to God that is to the free, supernatural Being, on whom man is conscious of being dependent, of whose powerful help he feels the need, and in whom he recognizes the source of his perfection and happiness. This subjection, Msgr. George said, is not simply a blind submission, but it has to be out of real awareness of what and whom we belong to. Speaking of his personal experience was so enriching to make clear his point, saying that he studies all religions and found no religion gives a convincing definition of God except Christianity… “God is Love.” Therefore, for him, Christianity is a choice, not a mere inherited religion.
In a time when Iraqis live in a tense religious atmosphere of different non-Christian currents, it becomes so important for the church to enlighten its people about the meaning behind their faith by which they can face the religious mainstream, especially the ones that are misused with politics, power, and fear. That was the main endeavor behind this meeting today, addressing a group of youth who no matter how conscious they are of their faith, still facing difficulties in dealing with a culture and a society like ours specially at this phase of their life. However, their questions or even doubts, never fail to pour themselves into the belief in a God of love whose incarnated Word became flesh and dwelled amongst and in us. With such belief, we pray that they will continue witnessing their faith despite all the challenges….Amen
Consecrated Virgin/ Youth Director
in the Latin Cathedral/ Baghdad