The Case Against Legalized Religious Holiday: Balancing The Scale Between Politics and Religion in Liberia
I support the importance of the three Cs: A Culture of Religious Tolerance; A Constitution of Religious Liberty, and A Conscience of Religious Function to justify why we do not need a Religious Holiday in Liberia.
Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Reeves, Jr. President, Liberia Baptist Missionary & Educational Convention, Inc. & Senior Pastor, Historic Providence Baptist Church (1821)
At the most fundamental level, I believe a religious holiday goes against the good judgment and the valuable faith practice we have nurtured as a Nation over the last one hundred and seventy-four years. This matter should be handled with care and good sense through the lenses of a culture of religious tolerance, a constitution of religious liberty, and conscience of religious function (the three Cs). If not, it has the capacity to promote an adverse environment that could foster sectarian violence in the future. To avoid this fate, every religion and religious practice must be given equal recognition with the establishment of a holiday of their own.
A Cultural of Religious Tolerance.
What is Religious Tolerance? The ability of a people to accept, and appreciate the spiritual values, beliefs and practices, preferences, that are different from their own.
From the start of Liberia with the arrival of the Christian settlers and the other imported monotheistic religions, Indigenous African Religions, Islam and Christianity have coexisted in large areas of West Africa. With the migration of our people, and the formation of this nation, diverse religious communities were created. Much to our thriving; we accepted, cooperated, fostered, and lived out our religious pluralism as a family. This meant that we embraced each other’s rights to think and exercise our faith and the space to practice our strongly held beliefs. Therefore, we have maintained a culture of religious tolerance for almost two centuries. This has served us well. In some cases, father a practicing Muslim and mother a devout Christian. In other instances, Children from Islamic homes were educated in Christian schools. In still other situations, members of both faiths attended special religious functions of each other, together.
Our culture of Religious tolerance has emerged strong and sturdy, out of our love for, and acceptance of, one another, with the understanding that we are made in the image of God with equality and dignity. This way of life has been driven by our inter-marriages and acceptance of one another as brothers and sisters. That is why we continue to promote a culture of integration, and interdependence. One implication is this: in spite of our religious differences, we believe in one community and one nation. Surely, this value has safeguarded our peace and security and has contributed to our unity and the formation of the Inter-religious Council of Liberia.
This coming together of leaders of both sides of the religious divide has contributed to and elevated a more tolerant Liberian society that peacefully coexist using our differences for the best interest of our humanity, and promoting peace, security and human rights for all of us. In the mission statement, the Council states four fundamental truths and essential values that are vital to a culture of religious tolerance. They are: To strengthen the Religious collaboration and cooperation; To advocate for the wellbeing of all; To plan together on addressing issues of both national and religious concerns; and To coordinate our resources for efficient joint action when necessary and possible. This council fully supports peaceful co-existence, understanding and religious tolerance. This is why I am strongly against legalizing a religious holiday.
A Constitution of Religious Liberty:
The second reason we do not need to legislate a religious holiday is because the Liberian Constitution guarantees religious freedom. It protects individuals to practice their rituals and special holidays without legislation. You cannot legislate morality. Individuals’ rights to practice their faith in Liberia is protected by the constitution. In the preamble of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia it is mentioned: “We the People of the Republic of Libera: Acknowledging our devout gratitude to God for our existence as a Free, Sovereign and independent State, and relying on His Divine Guidance for our survival as a Nation section…; Having resolved to live in harmony to practice fraternal love, tolerance and understanding as a people and being fully mindful of our obligation to promote…Peace and Cooperation.”
Rest assured that legalizing a religious holiday to please a particular religion of faith practice contradicts the Constitution of Liberia. In chapter three of the Constitution under Fundamental Rights, in Article fourteen the organic laws of the land state that: All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. All persons who, in the practice of their religion, conduct themselves peaceably, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set out herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law. No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike; and no religious tests shall be required for any civil or military office or for the exercise of any civil right. Consistent with the principle of separation of religion and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion.
We must not then seek legislation for a religious holiday that is already granted by our supreme law of the land, our constitution!
A Conscience of Religious Function:
In addition to our culture of religious tolerance and a constitution that protects religious freedom and liberties, Liberians have accepted that one of the functions of religion is to serve as the Conscience of our beloved nation. What do you mean Pastor Sam? I am glad you ask. All Liberians have come to believe that the function of our faiths (religion) is to help us know and decide what is noble and right, just and honest, good and decent to do. Religious beliefs regulate (should regulate) how we treat each other, what we think, and why we are our “brother’s keeper” neighbor’s caretaker and our “sister’s protectors”. In a sense, religion must be free of politics , and politically free, so that our leaders and members can speak up and stand up, for justice, equality, public good and responsive and responsible governance. Therefore, politics must not interfere with religion and religion must not baptize politics. While there must be distant and clear markers between politics and religion, the role of religion and faith is to hold government and the powers that be accountable to the ideals of public good as defined by our beliefs and commitments.
Our broad appeal and impact provide clear ethical direction, but it also renews our democracy in the attention we give to the poor, by our desire to reconcile tribal tensions, in our fight against women’s plight, in our advocacy of values of love, integrity, and community needed to preserve our national identity. We should always connect our faith with our actions, and our care for those in need with our walk with God. In the words of the Prophet Micah chapter 6 verse 8, we are advised about what does the Lord requires of us.
To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (NIV). To “walk humbly with God” is the basis for loving mercy and doing justice. Because of what God has done, we as a community must fully invest in healing those around us, yea, this nation, through mercy and justice. As we cultivate our walk with God, it gives us the power and passion to fully engage others and the powers that be, and it also grounds everything else we do. To walk humbly with God is to walk in humility and away from the self-obsessed mindset to always think we are better than others. Secondly, it is God’s desire for us to “love mercy,” or in some translations, kindness. Listen here, God wants us to be drawn to mercy, that is, having compassion for others in need. It is easy for our hearts to be hardened, and for our minds to be judgmental, on both sides of the divide.
We say about one another: These people are being both foolish and manipulative. They are taking advantage of our care. We always need to hear God say to all of us over and over again, “As one of my people, I hope you love mercy, for that is what you have received.” Finally, God tells us to “do justice.” We are called to continue to create a community where all God’s people have equal opportunity to fully develop the gifts that God has placed within us to care for one another, creating an environment and a beloved community where all of us can thrive and achieve our full potential. This means that historical wrongs must be righted and present-day evil must never go unchallenged.
Our religion has and always will be part of the social movement to advance the cause of justice for the underprivileged and redemption for those in prison, sick and homeless. With our culture of religious tolerance, the constitution of religious liberty, and faith-based function as the conscience of Liberia, we are directly and resolutely heading in the right direction. Yes, the three Cs make us hopeful of a unified nation. For these reasons, I stand strongly against the legislation of any religious holiday/s and invite all peace-loving and conscientious citizens and residents of Liberia to join me!!!