Bishop David of Stobi: 1700 years of the Edict of Milan! Free Archbishop Jovan!

On this occasion, in the present brief overview of the current situation, regarding the disrespect of the religious freedoms in our country, we will condensedly speak exclusively about the sociological aspect of the mentioned problem. As a motive we have the following: the history notes that this year marks the 1700 years since the declaration of the Edict of Milan. Essentially, the Edict is a decision, a decree of religious tolerance and abolition of every persecution on religious basis.

However, 17 centuries later, our reality witnesses that a state persecution on religious basis is still present in our midst! This persecution has been detected many times and with evidence by the international community, by the institutions that are protecting the religious freedoms in the world, and it is left as an indication of the sociological maturity of the consciousness and the conscience of the ones performing this persecution! And, of course, as a shame of our community in whole! But, obviously, ignoring the persecution is not making it cease! It is, clearly, being manifested on a daily basis throughout the decade-long torture of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid by the state apparatus, and through the unlawful refusal to inscribe the Orthodox Archbishopric of Ohrid in the court register of churches! In the past years, as a reaction to the mentioned issue, all topical Orthodox Churches, as well as a large number of other Christian denominations, are addressing the official representatives of our country, requesting a sooner abolition of the religious persecution. The persecution, which seems to be “invisible” for certain people here, remains forever visibly incarved in the church history worldwide! For the persons that have a sound system of values, the mere persecution of only one man, persecution of the preciousness of one personality, is sufficient to change the course of the history for the good of all mankind.

Contemporary Europe finds the example of the renowned theologian Deitrich Bonhoeffer – who refused to be a member of the German state church of the Reich, for which he was many times imprisoned in various camps, and hanged at the end – still fresh. Today, in the European Union there is no religious persecution. Should Archbishop Jovan be the new Bonhoeffer in our country, in order for everyone to remember that with the present torture he is suffering, the contemporary society is persistently degrading itself to the level of functioning only by the instincts, at the same time forgetting that the modern society accents the human dignity, liberty and responsibility, something that merely meets the preconditions for the subsequent free development of the human personality, and through that, the development of the society!?

Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that today, as opposed to the times when the Edict was declared, we live in a secular society, that from a sociological perspective, in the modern community has the following characteristic: the religious affiliation is a private and personal matter, and it is not in any way obligatory or state imposed!

Contrary to the stated, in our midst today something especially negative is being put in force, and that is the ideological use of Christianity.

John Locke will underline that the state is a community of people that has its purpose in preserving, providing for and supporting the civil and cultural values, while the church is a gathering which is based solely on the free will, and has its purpose in expressing the worship of God. Hence, atheism should not be identified with secularism.

We are aware that eleventh year in a row, the purpose is to silently kill Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid. It is not by chance that while he is being put in cruel prison conditions (these conditions are known to us), a new, staged, court persecution against the remaining Bishops, monastics and citizens, members of the Orthodox Archbishopric of Ohrid, is being started. Do the citizens of our homeland, today, in the 21st century, the ones who do not belong to the sole state-registered church which has the prefix “Orthodox”, and which is obviously – since it is the only one allowed – being in a totalitarian manner imposed by the state apparatus as obligatory, do those citizens, who are not part of the registered church, have the right to register their canonical church to which they belong, or would such a request for them mean an immediate initiation of imprisonment sentences and endless court processes, until their annihilation from the face of the earth? Emile Durkheim in due time indicates that ethics cannot be subjected to the temporal external pressure, which the state imposes upon certain individuals, expressing at the same time his unease exactly in regard to the threat of increased dependence of the individual on the society, and the bad influence that it could have upon the autonomy of the personality.

Hence, we are in need of implementation of the law for respecting of the religious freedoms; the governing of the law is essential! The legislative should find the appropriate balance, so that there would be no protests and no objections. Because, protests arise when certain groups are found to be outside the legal provisions. In the case of our Archbishopric, the state itself is violating the law for registration of the churches and the religious communities! The persecution continues before the eyes of the international community, which has also been put to a test, due to the long delay of the justice in regard to us! The cruel disposition of the authorities in this decade, and the merciless imprisonments of Archbishop Jovan are in front of You! We are here! Outside of the legal provisions, but not by our choice!

This year all Christians in the world, at different places, through creative meetings will celebrate the declaration of the Edict of Milan! Learning from the history the experiences that one courageous decision carries throughout the centuries – the Edict of Milan – our country would need no less courageous personalities in order for our society to be able to call upon the civilization gains – such as the Edict – with clear consciousness; and, hence, not be a passive observer of the history, but to worthily celebrate it, with the final termination of the shameful persecution of Archbishop Jovan!

In the contrary, there would always be the choice of stiff existence and dumb observation of the presentations of the experience of the sociological analysis for the state of hell as the inability to love the other, the one who is different!

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