SECTARIANISM is a chronic disease that has been devastating our region for years. The Europeans lived with it in the past, during the Dark Ages, which were overwhelmed by the sectarian mind.
In 15th century France, sectarianism was at its peak between the majority Catholics who followed the Pope in Rome and Luther’s Protestants. As usual, the majority Catholics intensively loathed the minority Protestants, because they considered the latter heretic infidels — people who deviated from the religion and belief in the Messiah.
This happened because according to the majority Catholics at the time, the doctrine was theirs and that of the Pope’s Church alone. Several massacres occurred until one of the best kings of France, King Henry IV, took the rein of leadership. The King was known for his high-class taste and delicate sense.
King Henry IV, who was also known as ‘Good King Henry’, was a Protestant, but he decided to submit to the inclinations of his extremist people, thus, he declared to have changed to become a Catholic. Even so, the staunch Catholics were not convinced; they said it was just an act and they did not fall into such acts.
This is the religion and culture of sectarian extremists. Their fundamental tendencies dictate fear of the other, regardless of the other’s (stranger) submission to his beliefs, up to a point where the Catholics that time regarded the minority Protestants as traitors of the faith.
One day in 1610 while the King was on his horse carriage, he passed through the famous Rivoli Street where a fundamental Catholic appeared before him with a poisonous dagger, stabbing him several times so King Henry died instantly.
Good King Henry was succeeded by his son, Louis XIII, and later by his grandson, Louis XIV also known as, ‘Louis the Great’ or the ‘Sun King’, who ruled for about 60 years during which oppression and persecution of minority Protestants continued — killing the innocent souls of thousands of men, women and children whose only sin was, “they did not share the same faith with the King”.
Because of oppression and persecution, about 300 minority Protestant families were forced to migrate to Protestant countries like England, Germany, Holland and Switzerland.
Louis XIV was an enlightened king. He used to say, “I am the State and the State is me”, but his fault was that he was a blazing sectarian personality. France was unable to get rid of its sectarianism until the July Revolution in 1789 which anchored the principles of religious freedom, opinion, equality and compatriotism.
This means France did not get rid of its abhorred sectarian emotions and majority oppression on the minority until its blossoming revolution and splendid principles emerged.
We neither want revolutions nor ousting of our leaders, because we failed in both. All of our revolutions were about military overthrow while our modern spring revolutionaries produced chaos and destruction.
We hope that one day we will be able to breathe oxygen which is free from rotten sectarianism. When will this glorious day come?
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli – Former Minister of Oil