Why declaring religious affiliation in the census is very important

2023-09-28 15:55:00, Opinione Miron Çako

Why declaring religious affiliation in the census is very important

By Miron ?ako, in charge of the Catechism Office of the Archdiocese.

The 2023 census questionnaire has many questions that the resident in Albania must answer correctly to the surveyor with an electronic tablet about what he has, because otherwise he will be fined, while questions about practice and religious affiliation are left at the end as an answer optional.

First, although the census has already been approved in cooperation with interest groups and religious communities, it is still noted that in the first question about religion I.68: "Are you a practitioner and do you belong to a religious group", there is an anticap that must to be overcome by the believer, because none of the people, nor the sensitive electronic devices, can measure the measure of the religious practice in the temple, at home and everywhere of the believer, but not even the believer himself can make this measurement for himself, because as he says apostle Paul: "I do not even judge myself" (1 Corinthians 4-3). 

This measurement of religious practice can only be done by God who: "searches the kidney and the heart" (Revelation 2-23), who will judge and reward everyone according to faith and works on the day of personal and world judgment (Revelation 22-12) .

Therefore, it is good that the believer should overcome this question without putting himself in difficulty to measure the level of practicing his faith and answer "yes", moving on to the next question: I.69 "what religious affiliation do you have", it is understood if he feels religious regardless of the degree of faith practice.

There are some religious voices that say: "For me, the one who comes to church once for Easter and Christmas is not religious and should not be considered a believer", these voices should not be listened to because the apostle tells us: "who are you that judge another's servant" (Romans 14-4).

These religious "prosecutors" intentionally or unintentionally want to introduce a fictitious number competition and confuse Orthodox believers so that they do not declare themselves as such, this is in the interest of their community so that by not declaring themselves Orthodox, they themselves rise to an artificial percentage. disrupting the ranking of communities in Albania that has existed since the first census in 1927 and continues to this day where the Orthodox are truly the second religious community with over 20% of the population.

There are also some ultra-nationalists who seek to confuse religious affiliation with nationalism. Thus they request that the religious answer be ignored because it affects the national affiliation and the Albanians declare that: "Albanian's religion is Albanianism.

This way of seeing religious affiliation by these ultranationalists, as analysts, historians or even worse pseudo-religious, clerics, comes as a reminiscence of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans, where Muslims were called Turks, Greek Orthodox and Latin Catholics, and also a reminiscence of atheism and communism, where the state forced the Albanians to declare themselves atheists through deception and imposition.

First, this is another deception by the deceived because since 1912 we in Albania live in an independent state from Turkey, also the religious community in the country gained independence, where for many the Orthodox Church in Albania is Autocephalous since 1937 with Thomas Patrialkal, ie legally independent from the Ecumenical Patriarchate based in Constantinople (Satamboll), thus the religious affiliation of Orthodox Albanian citizens is automatically separated from the national one of another country, as it was determined in the Ottoman Empire for hegemonic interests and to the detriment of our nation.

Second, today "Albanian's religion is not Albanianism" because today we do not need to unite regardless of religion and ideas in the liberation of the people from an invader, just like Vaso Pasha (1825-1892) gave the motto of national unification at that time of occupation and the risk of national disintegration by the centuries-old Turkish enemy who used the religious division for hegemony and decommunization, especially of the Albanians.

Today, Albanians together with minorities live in a free, independent state that seeks to become an integral part of the EU, where freedom of expression of citizenship and religious belief is one of the fundamental rights protected by law.

We must know that the doctrine of the Orthodox Church and its synodical decisions, especially in the Panorthodhkos Synod in Constantinople in 1872, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate, spurred by nationalist actions within the Church, condemned Ethno Philetism (racism) as heresy, and the division of the Church according to the nation and for nationalism, ethnophilicism, are defining canons that condemn as heresy these phenomena that appeared especially in the Balkans in the 19th century.

With these canonical decisions, the Orthodox Church seeks to prevent any influence of nationalism and ethnophilicism in the religious aspect in the church institution wherever and by whom it wants to reappear.

The Orthodox Apostolic Catholic Church in its Catholic nature that includes all nations within it as the body of Christ is not discriminatory as nationalism, philistine and racism promotes, but is inclusive.

Likewise, the existence of the defining adjective, as religious nationalists want even today, for example to call the Orthodox Church; "Albanian Church", canonically makes the existence of an autocephalous Catholic Church within a territory impossible, because it turns into a nationalist church that excludes participation in it. believers of any other ethnic affiliation within it, quite different from the command that God gave to the apostles who founded the Apostolic Church: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28,19).

Therefore, such a nationalist church does not and should not exist as an Orthodox church, but it is a nursery of horas and charlatans who carry the flag of the nation and the name of Albanians to cover their shame, sins and fools who are tempted by the devil.

Therefore, we emphasize that Orthodox religious affiliation cannot be confused with national affiliation and whoever promotes this, cleric or layman, is a deceived deceiver and will be punished as a heretic by God and the Church.

Despite the fact that for the Orthodox Church the census statistics do not determine anything for its sotirological purpose in Christ, because the Church is not interested in numbers but in persons and as for the number of its believers it has regular statistics in the church registers of each parish.

What we need to know and is most important for us as Orthodox believers about the census is that the census questionnaire on religious affiliation is a test of our faith in Christ.

Don't be surprised about this!

None of those who feel Orthodox believers by tradition or personal choice when asked by someone, individual, or authority whether: "do you believe or not in the Lord Jesus Christ" or: "are you a Christian or not", can say that this is business for me and there is no need for others or the state to know.

Despite the fact that faith is personal internally, it must be proven externally, even more so when we are asked, such as in this questionnaire, and when the Church itself urges us to declare ourselves as we are, Orthodox Christians.

We must know that just as the state punishes with administrative measures those who do not declare truthfully about their social status, wealth, etc. according to the questionnaire, how much more God who makes a fair trial and rewards or penalizes us when we affirm or deny it in front of people .

The Lord Jesus Christ said it himself: "Whoever, therefore, will confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10,32-33).

Affirmation or denial before the examiner of religious sinfulness should be seen as an affirmation or denial of faith in Christ.

This is a very big responsibility because what is declared here on earth is recorded there in the heavens and will be the criterion of how we will be judged in the judgment of God by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5-22).

Let us consider the saints who were not ashamed or afraid to affirm that they were Christians in front of people, authorities even when this had a very heavy cost, up to the fearful martyrdom.

Here is an example from the martyrs: "They once arrested a Christian, because he was speaking about God, and cut out his tongue. Then he takes blood from his bloody tongue with his finger and writes on the wall "I believe in Christ" (I am a Christian). So we too must affirm the faith when we are asked, not to become crypto-Christians (hidden Christians), even more so when it costs us nothing, just an affirmation and an electronic registration

According to the apostle Paul, the declaration of faith is a criterion for salvation: "What do you say, then? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart". This is the word of faith that we preach; for if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Because with the heart, a person believes in righteousness and with the mouth confession is made for salvation, because the Scripture says: "Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed" (Romans 10,9-11).

This is also the teaching of the saints at all times:

"The Christian who is ashamed to affirm Christ in his life with deeds and words, has not really believed. He is not worthy to mention His Name. It is a person who behaves and is based on the accounts of this world. Whoever does not have the courage to defend his faith belongs to the category of those whom Christ says in the Gospel: "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, even the Son of man he will be ashamed of that when he comes to the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mk. 8:38). And when Christ said these words, he was definitely not kidding!

(Oshinar Starec Varsanufios of Optina)

Therefore, dear Orthodox Christians, let us look at this census as an opportunity to affirm our centuries-old faith for the glory of God, for the honor of the fathers who preserved it and handed it down to us, and for our honor and salvation as Orthodox Christians today, because: " Affirming faith is a great achievement and we must always have the holy courage to affirm without fearing anyone. Only God should we fear, to whom we will give an account for our faith. Amen. (Father Ephrem of Arizona, 2019 †)

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