Dear sisters and brothers, dear friends, when we are celebrating the national Independence and Unity Day in a few day’s time, we are celebrating a holiday of two great and fundamental values without which no state or any other human community can exist.
The first of these values is independence. It could also be called maturity and adulthood, or freedom and independence that we attribute to a person whom we consider independent. There is a clear parallel between an independent human being and an independent nation or a state. An independent and mature nation is independent only as much as its people are independent and mature.
Independence and freedom are by no means synonymous with anarchy, as St. Paul points out in the reading we have just heard. The ruling forces in anarchy are brutal power and violence, leading to that which is contrary to freedom – fear, servitude and slavery. Therefore, an independent human being as well as an independent and free country presuppose and require a clear consciousness about that which is just and true. Moreover, they require an ordered and consistent conduct which should correspond to reason and the requirements of justice. It is not the outsiders who write the laws for an independent nation. Neither do those who are more powerful regulate its duties and rights. Nevertheless, this does not mean that a nation can exist without them. An independent nation lays down its own rules and legislation juridical order. In other words, it is the members of a nation themselves that discover and give the order and laws. However, they do not only give them but also observe them.
Just as national independence does not mean anarchy and self-will which lead to violence, so also man as an individual is not free if he acts arbitrarily and does whatever he wills. An independent and free human being does not live without laws and rules but discovers them with his reason and conscience that clearly tells him that it does matter how one lives and that he has to be bound to truth and justice; to that which is true and just.
A truly independent, mature and free person does not act whimsically and irresponsibly but reasonably and in accordance with moral responsibility. The same is true of a state with its free and responsible citizens. The laws bind them and limit their self-will – not in order to limit their freedom but so that everybody, not only some of them, would be free. Only then can such a state be called a legal state.
One has to be very much aware of this especially in these days when we hear all kinds of statements and appeals. Many criticisms regarding faulty law regime are legitimate. Nevertheless, we will not restore a legal state by disrespecting the existent legal order and even less by restlessness in the streets. There is only one place where the right solutions can be found: wherever a reasonable discussion and sincere search for truth take place; wherever the people involved have a clear idea of what is true and right.
Unity is the second fundamental value of which we are aware on the Independence and Unity Day in all its indispensability. Unity as a mutual connectedness, solidarity and cooperation, without exclusions and hatred. Concord and unity mean life and existence, whereas discord means decay, downfall and death. Jesus himself agrees with this ancient wisdom when he says in the gospel: “Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin; and no town, no household divided against itself can last” (Mt 12:25). This is the reason he kept urging his disciples over and over again to be united, to be one. This is also the reason that John the Evangelist described the purpose of his mission as the unity of the whole human race, since Jesus died to “gather together into one the scattered children of God“ (Jn 11:52).
Therefore, anyone who sincerely desires common welfare and good for all fellow human beings will wish their unity, coexistence and cooperation. It is only the enemies that use the principle “divide et impera” – divide and rule, make people quarrel and set them against one another. A true statesman is only he whose priorities are the needs and welfare of the community. This is the reason he strives with all his forces for mutual cooperation, coexistence and respect. Contrary to this, mutual exclusion and disunion are deadly enemies of political, national and any other community.
There is even a greater need for unity in difficult times in which we live at present. This is also the reason that we need today, more than ever, mutual respect, dignity, dialogue, truthfulness and creative cooperation. Despite the fact that the forces which have been separating us for decades are still powerful, we know that God is on the side of those who strive for unity, collaboration and peace. Thus we will continue to be, even more decisively, on this God’s side. Amen.
Msgr. Anton Stres, Ph. D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Ljubljana and
President of the Slovenian Bishops' Conference