Croatian government and the Croatian Catholic Church have been at serious loggerheads, to say the least, since the government announced late last year its new school health education plan, which includes sex education in all its “modern-day” imagery, facets, spectrum. Suffice to say, the government would not budge from its plan to implement the program to school children that has caused enormous discomforts, distress, fury, and downright (futile) rejection from much of the community. To put fuel on this sorry “state of the nation”, a TV program (Picture of Croatia/Slika Hrvatske), produced by TV journalist Karolina Vidovic-Kristo, went under “the knife” as soon as it broadcasted the episode that examined possible correlation between the results of studies with pedophiles and school sex education (issues raised in association with the Kinsey Syndrome documentary). One would have thought that the media has the duty to offer the public information on all facets in and around a socially important issue such as sex education in schools – but, the powers that be think differently; they’ve made up their minds and nothing will stop them – or will it?
A two-way street of barrages of insults, cynicism, sarcasm … between the Church and the Government opened, just before Christmas Day, with saddening tides for celebrations of the birth of Jesus Christ. I say saddening because the 2011 census showed that there are 86.28% (of total population) Catholics in Croatia. I would have expected the Government to announce its seemingly controversial school sex education curriculum at some other time in the year, not so close to one of the most celebrated religious days in the year for so many of its constituents. As in any country, sex education in schools is a sensitive issue and usually carefully vetted, discussed or tested through parents’ associations etc. Whether a parent has the right to decide how sex education will be delivered in the school their child attends is a moot question that touches upon morality and social responsibility. The governments, on the other hand, have the responsibility to deliver education and, hence, dialogues are essential between all concerning parties, including the Church.
Productive dialogue has not been achieved between the Church and the Government on this issue of sex education. It’s almost like the two are asserting their points of view forcefully and the umpire (the parent/the people) is confused, but at times using distasteful means to bring their own issues to the front. E.g., hundreds of people turned up January 12 in front of Zagreb’s Cathedral to witness, to protest or to participate in the so-called “kiss your neighbour” rally: LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights groups kissing in public, thus demonstrating their disapproval of the Church’s views on homosexuality and its place in school sex education, and the “war of words” that had been raging between the Church and the Government. The LGBT groups have announced a new rally under the banner: “Rally for secularism”! Well – one doesn’t need to look far to see where from those winds might be blowing (given that ex-Communists are in Government)! But, the critical thing here is that they don’t seem to be behaving any differently (more tolerantly) from that which they’re saying needs change, and are rallying against! The truth is that schools in Croatia are secularised, they’re public, the government is secular/separated from church, etc. so what does “Rally for secularism” mean? To deny people’s personal right to choose to believe, to belong to a church…?
The schools reopen after the winter recess on Monday 14 January and if one is to go by several media reports many parents are boycotting (not sending their children to school) sex education lessons and the Minister for Education, Zeljko Jovanovic, has threatened that their children will be marked as “AWOL” (absent without leave)! You accumulate several of those in a year and you’re in big trouble with your school grades!
In light of all of the above, and more, on the issue of belief, good and bad, I thought it most soothing to translate dr. Slobodan Lang’s article and post it here. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)
Christmas Education in Croatia
By dr. Slobodan Lang
(Translated into English by: Ina Vukic)
Christmas day is a day of joy and hope, goodness is in achieving Jesus, Croatia is entering into the European Union, faith, family, human rights, education, health … During recent days Croatia was filled with debates on all subjects. We would, therefore, rightfully expect that we had welcomed the birth of baby Jesus with joy and that we had shown him that we welcome him among the people and in the country that has accepted the responsibility of goodness.
It wasn’t like that, regardless of whom we’re talking about, about priests, politicians, media, organisations. Most had placed an accent on him/herself and increased the polarisation and division among people. It’s not important at all what badness was uttered or written by whom about somebody else. What’s important is that almost nobody talked about the good.
This Christmas we all saw and were warned that Croatia lives more in the civilisation of bad than good. Most Croatian people are good people, and they know how to be good in their families, in organisations, in church, in Unions … but we do not know how to be good people in togetherness for creating Croatia.
The most valuable messages were sent, on 9th January, by President Ivo Josipovic and Archbishop Zelimir Puljic: « that, in relation to health education, good will, patience, responsibility and a sincere readiness for talks – the foundation for communication in areas of political and civil life».
Incongruous debates about health education for school children suggest that education about the good is needed for all adults in Croatia.
Croatia will either create a society of good or it will cease to exist. This goes for the whole of the Western civilisation, Europe, and perhaps (I’m relatively uninformed) for the whole world.
Pope John Paul II called upon us to create the theology of work, we want to be more, than to have more. He especially warned the Communist societies not to fall for false and dangerous dreams of the society based on consumerism, which devastates the future.
Is Christmas in today’s West and Croatia a celebration of Jesus’ birth or a celebration of a consumer society?
My family, Catholic and Jewish, filled with joy, has celebrated the Orthodox Christmas. On that day a new member of our family was born. Due to the risky pregnancy his mother spent four moths in bed. The hospital doctors and nurses provided help and cared for her all that time, her priest visited her regularly and prayed with her and an another mother in the hospital room, grandmother came regularly and helped, the whole family was enmeshed in good, even I myself was useful for some things (I brought Rosary Beads from Medjugorje). The mother is the first employer in our lives and she carries the responsibility of the love needed for us to be born and to start our lives in the community. Breastfeeding is the first work. From the very beginning children should, with their work in their family, do good for everyone, and in school the pupils need to do the cleaning by themselves, how many days has there been without aggression – needs to be written on the blackboard – have lessons started on time … Work begins much before employment, and we work for love, friendship, help, much before and much more than we do for money. Does this testimony belong to health and sex education?
Let’s conduct a research, do belief, attending Mass and prayer encourage blood donations, helping the neighbour, humanitarian work, help with employment, care for the elderly, comforting the depressed, material support, empathy. Would we not, in this way, get a better picture about goodness than by the level of education, by nationality, age or gender.
People are social and moral beings. When we face danger we also react as members of groups, first – immediately, instinctively and emotionally, and then – with deliberation and rationality. Belief helps us to realise our deliberation and prudence as quickly as possible. Fast reaction can sometimes be useful, but it leads to conflicts and disintegration. A slower reaction leads to deliberation, connects the community, strengthens Altruism and conquers negative emotions. God does not exist in order to give us our safety or to support us in our conflict with anyone. As believers, we are obligated to send messages and do deeds of goodness. Religion must not serve for the justification of conflicts and hatred – when that happens it is no longer the belief in God.
People who are not believers must aspire to lead a life of goodness, and to be able to publicly express and show that they morally accept the common good. Today’s world needs a new Universal declaration on human duty. Regardless of whether we are believers or not, we all should accept the duty of generosity, magnanimity, goodness and positive ethics, and reject the inherited biases, rapaciousness, selfishness, aggression, quarrels …
The short public debate on sex education has demonstrated that today’s Croatia has no vision as to what it wants us to build in togetherness.
A certain Croatian “meeting at the top” was held in the Cathedral. Cardinal Bozanic has in his sermon expressed dissatisfaction with the new program for schools. The President and the Prime Minister of Croatia were listening to him. If they were believers they would know to go to the Sacristy after the Mass and organise a meeting to discuss the matter. As politicians they could have thought about these matters and formally invited church representatives to a meeting. Regretfully, human weakness and separation, instead of clarification and linking with one another, prevailed. After that, the lack in their communication turned into the plunging out of members of the now conflicting sides, including agitating followers into conflicts between one another. The climax was “the war of kisses” in front of the Cathedral on 12th January. In my youth we had a slogan “Make love, not war”. Reagan reacted: “It seems that this generation doesn’t know how to do either.” In the defence of and in creating Croatia we showed that we know how to do both.
The Prime Minister, Mr Milanovic, requested a ceasefire. The debate on health education in schools clearly demonstrated to him that the whole of Croatia urgently and essentially needs a joint vision of goodness.
God’s announcement of Jesus Christ as one of the people represents the ultimate trust of God in people and the people’s responsibility towards God. There is no Universal man after the fort of Babylon; all live their short lives within defined nations and time. Jesus Christ was born 2000 years ago, among Jews in Israel, which already had its faith and Shrine, but it was under the Roman authorities. Jews were preparing an aggressive revolt against Rome. Jesus was aware that this would not give Jews their freedom but, rather, a military defeat, unjust judgment and peril. That’s why, with actions from man to man, he showed that it is possible to do good, he gathered them and educated them, and finally at the mount he called upon people to jointly build the world of good, through non-aggression and humanity. As not enough Jews accepted him, but continued to prepare for an aggressive revolt against Rome, he decided to warn them of what is to come for them, using himself as example. He exposed himself to an unjust judgment, torture and death. Soon, he appeared again before his followers and awakened in them the power of faith. The remaining Jews raised, in 66 C.E., the revolt that brought the greatest catastrophe in Jewish life, before the Holocaust. Today, the Jews consider this revolt as a terrible mistake. Regretfully, since Jews do not believe in Christ, they have not to this day understood that he called for abandonment of the world of wars and aggression, and showed that every man can do good, and that a nation can only realise its freedom in the company of good. On the other hand, Christians had not for a long time given meaning to the fact that Jesus dedicated his human life to helping and teaching every man and the whole community. In this way they separated Calvary from time before and after.
John Paul II apologised for the historical mistakes of the church and Benedict XVI dedicated special attention to ties with the Rabbi. I personally believe that Jesus’ lesson is good, an invitation, equally to believers and non-believers, to join with each other and build a civilization of good, and the Croatia of good. Jesus himself lived by doing good and not by persecuting evil, which he either rejected (the Devil) or banished from the place of responsibility.
Turning back to health, human rights, school, church and politics. People live significantly longer in the European Union (which we are joining) than in Croatia. The most terrible thing is that people here could live longer if a national health program was developed. This is possible only through a national goal. Croatia is aging and the population is getting smaller. It’s possible to change both, but only through a national goal.
The whole of Europe has lived very long in following the civilization of evil, dividing people into valuable and invaluable people, till the final Nazi introduction of even non-people. After WWII Nazis were defeated and there were proclamation of human rights, humanitarian principles, righteous among nations. A further 20 years was needed for the West to free itself from racism and colonialism, and then a further 20 years for the communist totalitarianism to fall.
Advocating for the equality of all is, in today’s world, a precondition and the duty of all people who want to build Europe and who believe in Jesus Christ. The majority, the minorities and the individuals are equal. That has been implemented with the Jews, racially, gender-wise, religiously, and nationally. Equality for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) group is being implemented in 21st Century Europe and U.S.A. Among them, throughout history, were the greats like Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo. How large is their contribution to all of us, in philosophy, in the arts, in politics … LGBT will realise their rights in Europe and in Croatia.
Let’s conclude with Jesus. He began to exist – he was conceived and killed – crucified, on the same day, 25th March. Christmas, 25th December, the day of his birth was chosen because it is nine months after conception. Both, faith and humanity obligate to full truth and do not permit the behaviour and the approach based on divisions between knowledge and ignorance. Let’s embrace responsibility, work and good – we need Easter.
About dr. Slobodan Lang. Born to Jewish family 8 October 1945 in Zagreb, Croatia. Physician, author, writer, politician and former personal adviser to the first Croatian President dr. Franjo Tudjman. His paternal grandfather Ignjat was the president of the Jewish community in Vinkovci (Croatia) and his grandmother Terezija was a housewife. In 1941 Catholic priest Hijacint Bošković, distinguished Dubrovnik and Croatian Dominican, was engaged in an extraordinary attempt to rescue the Langs from Nazi persecution. Bošković traveled from Dubrovnik to Vinkovci with a special permit that allowed him to relocate the Langs to Dubrovnik. Langs grandfather refused to leave, saying that he “was the president of Jews in peace and he will stay one in the war”. Both of his grandparents were killed in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. He graduated at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine and is a specialist in social medicine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slobodan_Lang)