A few days ago I had a long discussion with a very close Christian friend, of similar age to myself, who is truly devoted to his faith.
Amongst many other topics, he asked me why fewer Muslims committed suicide than those from other religions.
I replied that although I did not have access to specific statistics, I had noticed many reports in the local Press which backed up his claim. However, I told him that his comparison did not seem to apply to Western Europe’s Christian and Islamic communities.
I was surprised when he said that he believed the geography had something to do with it.
He elaborated that Christianity in western Europe is declining rapidly. The Church of England, suffering from dwindling congregations, could close down thousands of churches in the UK. This also applies in most west European countries.
I asked him: “You as a good Christian must be able to understand better than me the reasons behind such a trend.”
My Asian friend elaborated: “Materialism in its broadest definition. And much more, the Church as an institution has lost its graceful reputation – particularly amongst the young.”
I told him that I disagreed.
“Even if this is true,” I said, “today the number of worshippers freely visiting churches in Russia, the former Eastern Bloc, and China, are increasing year after year. And their numbers in comparison to Western Europe are many times more – because religion there is not a philosophical school, but a bond between creatures and their creator.
“This feeling cannot be compensated for or disrupted by materialism, because the needs of a human are not merely limited to material wealth, but are far exceeded by spiritual requirements.”
The havoc and hardship faced by western nations during the last 100 years, from revolutions to two world wars, when millions upon millions lost their lives, has a direct bearing on attitudes.
Deaths and destruction of their homes, cities and places of work, has changed the mental horizons of masses of individuals, who now adopt the mantra “Live for the Day”. This maxim has influenced a new school of thought – that tomorrow is far away, yesterday I cannot change, but let me benefit from and live only in the present.
Such a perspective has influenced and prompted many social changes, which deviate significantly from the ethics, values and sanctity of Christianity.
One sad manifestation of this change is a direct clash with the central core of religious beliefs.
Of course many would describe this as a narrow and naïve standpoint, and it is not new. Similar doubts have surfaced and affected Mankind throughout history and in every century.
From the day Johannes Gutenberg invented his basic moveable type printing machine in 1440, until today, millions of books have been published every year – from fiction and non-fiction, to the theories of great thinkers and philosophers. Yet still the Bible and Quran are among the most widely read worldwide.
This indicates that the institution of religion cannot be replaced by any form of materialism.
The human soul, as strong as it pretends to be, when faced with setbacks, defeat, disappointments, hopelessness, reacts in exactly the same way. Two hands are stretched towards the sky! This has never changed, despite someone’s education, readings, knowledge and power. Because in that moment of absolute weakness, Man steadfastly believes that his destiny is in the hands of a far greater power than he had ever recognised!
We owe our mental serenity to all the great prophets. They revealed to us the spiritual power and message of God.
And on this occasion, the birth of the Prophet Jesus (Peace be upon Him), with all my heart I wish every Christian brother and sister a Merry Christmas – and a Happy New Year to the whole of humanity...