Arville and I have lived and worked overseas for the past 27 July Fourth celebrations (a few of those we were in the US when July 4th rolled around). We have always made it a day of fun, picnics, and good food. It seems to take on a new significance when celebrated with folks from other countries (yes, we even celebrated with some British friends several years).
In Macedonia, we have realized the significance of the freedom of separating religion and government. Yesterday, Mary Beth and I were driving back from taking the Smiths to the airport, and we passed a new Orthodox Church that is being built near our apartment. This church is not necessarily for the purpose of worship. There will be few who actually enter it for that reason. It is a symbol that Macedonia is an Orthodox country. On the outside of the church, at the entry door, a Macedonian flag is flying.
Lest you think that it is only the Macedonians that link church and state, you only have to pass a mosque (2 streets down from this Orthodox church) to see an Albanian flag stationed somewhere nearby.
What does it mean - this separation of church and state? Why is it so important to not mix politics and religion? One only has to experience the separation of people, the hatred for the "other", and the wars in our region to know why we are proponents of separation of church and state. When these two are linked together, the ground is fertile for one to think he or she is superior to the other nationality or faith. The next step is taking the freedom of choice (both political and religious) away. Reconciliation can happen only when one has the freedom to be Macedonian -- whether he or she is Orthodox or Muslim.