By: Dr Janez Juhant
In the book with the meaningful title Do not live from lies, Rod Dreher lists example of the Croatian Jesuit Father Tomislav Kolaković and other dissidents from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and some other countries, who strengthened Catholics to defy totalitarian regimes by preserving human Christian dignity. As a teacher, he developed a spiritual resistance against lies, oppression, and robbery of freedom.
Followers of the Družina movement strengthened the foundation of preserving values and the family, which were undermined by the regime. Spouse, professors Kamila and Vaclav Benda in the Czech Republic endured harassment, and the husband also endured prison. They passed on and demonstrated these values even to their children, when they raised them for an authentic family life, which was violently undermined by the totalitarian system, and today it is undermined in a soft form by left-wing intellectualism: “The family is the place where we first learn to love others. If we are lucky, it is also the place where we first learn how to live in truth.” The family fulfils three basic conditions: it is a community of love, a source of freedom, which in marriage and family is realised in constant dialogic exchange, and maintenance of the dignity of the person. Family members cultivate it in dialogue and loyalty to overcome tensions within the family and pressures and challenges from outside. Therefore, according to Dreher, a firm, dialogical and attentive family or wider spiritual community is the basis of resistance against the lie of the modern soft totalitarianism of the media, the omniscient mentality and false “freedom”. According to a Pole Skibinski, “today we are witnessing the destruction of the last strongholds of community: the family, the Church, the nation.” The families Benda and other dissidents (including Vaclav Havel) even included their children in the resistance and the associated renunciation. The signatories of the Charter 77 for human rights insisted on the truth and supported each other in overcoming the pressures of the regime, which is a message for times of crisis, when the dialogue experience that we miss is necessary.
Unfortunately, the average religious Christian (American and our?) family today is not significantly different from non-believers. A young Argentinian Slovenian woman thought that in Slovenia – in contrast to Slovenian families in Argentina – families hardly talk about problems, so children are brought up more under the influence of the Internet and the media, school, the street, etc. At home, our parents, uncle, grandmother, and brothers prayed in the evenings and, despite the difficult conditions, talked about the horrors of war, the suppression of religion, the pressure on the farm (nationalisation), murdered uncles, etc. Sometimes they sent me or my brother out under the window to see if anyone was eavesdropping. This is how I equipped myself to defy school and public consensus. I remember the time when Bishop Rožman died on November 16th, 1958 – I was in the sixth grade in Šmartne pri Litija. Anton Gornik was one of the few pastors who had the bell rung for the deceased bishop. When the bell rang, the teacher stopped the Slovenian lesson mid-sentence and started talking badly about Rožman. At home, I probably renewed the slander with conviction, but my mother clearly and decisively put the teacher to the lie and strengthened me in the truth and respect for him.
The prophet of the Slovenian nation and country, Lambert Ehrlich, considered the Slovenian language and culture to be an essential dimension of the nation. We are born in our mother tongue; we step into our culture. Christian universality, on the other hand, strengthens nationality in its connection, when it opens it up to a true relationship with others. Multiculturalism, which is a pretext that a person does not have to be himself, authentic and self-possessed, is starting to do both. Belonging to family and homeland enables survival, provides support for values and strengthens upright persons in a living dialogue. According to Ehrlich, Christianity transcends nationality in the limitations of nationalism and unites nations. A Christian nation will not attack its neighbour in the name of religion, but people with totalitarian ideologies do. In the fall of 1941, Ehrlich wrote in the Slovenian problem about a united Europe with Slovenia in the centre. And the late Kajetan Gantar, long before Schumann and Adenauer, spoke about a united Europe on Christian foundations. In the most difficult moments of the nation’s distress, he raised independent and upright Slovenes. As early as 1933, he spoke at Sveti Višarje about the church that unites nations. Man is created in the image of God, embodied in Jesus Christ, and the earthly state is built in the heavenly one.
In this spirit and for this, they lived and died: Matija Majar Ziljski, Lambert Ehrlich, Jože Pučnik, and thirty-one years ago the defenders of independent Slovenia: Edvard Peperko, Peter Petrič, Sebastijan Miran, Toni Mrak, Janez Svetina, and others.
Pope Francis emphasised to the Slovenian bishops that countries are not only created by new people, but also by cooperation, dialogue, and selfless work. Archbishop Zore concluded a sermon at St. Mass for the Fatherland: “I dream that the Republic of Slovenia would have leaders who would act as statesmen in the best sense of the word, and that its inhabitants would become citizens who are capable of seeing the fruits and judging by them the abilities of those who promise grapes on the thorn and figs on thistle.”
As Christians, we bet everything on the heavenly country, but that is why we also work selflessly for the earthly with love for our countrymen and all people.