Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness?
Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness?
Posted on September 28, 2015
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 September 2015 — The recent visit to
Cuba of the Bishop of Rome, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, brought a flood of
masses and homilies in several different settings, where, among others,
two words were often heard in the context of the Cuban landscape:
forgiveness and reconciliation. They were all the more curious since
they were not evoked at the same time as those other words to which they
are unavoidably related: offense, confession and repentance.
In this fashion, Francis urged all Cubans, believers or not, to
reconciliation in the abstract and forgiveness of no particular offense,
an exhortation so cryptic and watered-down that it well could have been
uttered anywhere in the world. Who are the offenders and the offended,
what do offenses consist of, whose turn is it to forgive and who will be
the forgiven were matters that were left to each individual to ponder.
The Pope also spoke of “suffering of the poor,” of “respect to
differences” and many other similar phrases that can assume conflicting
interpretations according to one’s point of view.
In any case, forgiveness and reconciliation have different nuances,
depending whether they stem from theology or from politics. Let us
assume, then, that Francis remained more attached to the first, given
his status as a clergyman, though we must not forget that he is also a
head of State, a politician and a diplomacy maker representing very
particular interests – beyond his good intentions towards the Cuban
people — and with no responsibility at all for solving the serious
problems facing our nation.
In case there is doubt, the Pope had announced himself in advance as
‘missionary of mercy’, which strips this visit — at least in the obvious
— of any political overtones. It is fair to understand the Supreme
Pontiff’s delicate position that aims to sail to a safe harbor. Further
considering his complicated role as mediator between God and Catholics,
and even between rival governments — as has been plainly demonstrated on
issues of the restoration of US-Cuba relations — it could be argued that
he played his role with dignity during his stay in Cuba.
Because of this, anyone who had expected the Pope to give the
dictatorship a scolding, to extend some considerate gesture towards the
dissidence or to adopt a position of outright rejection of the Lords of
the Palace of the Revolution has been greatly disappointed. The Pope
might have done more, but we already know that the ways of God’s
ministers on earth are as inscrutable as the Lord’s.
However, once we acknowledge the unpredictability of words, the time may
be is right to put them in context and give them the interpretation they
deserve from a closer perspective to mundane issues. Let us try to
reconcile Bergoglio’s case against reality, plainly assuming that the
Pontiff might have implied that Cubans should forgive crimes and abuses
inflicted by a dictatorship about to celebrate its 57th healthy
anniversary in power, a regime that has never shown any interest in our
forgiveness, never confessed its countless mortal sins, and remains ever
reluctant to show any repentance.
Should we merely forgive the oppressors, informers and other despicable
humanoid instruments used by the dictatorial power to repress, which
they continued to do even at the very moment when the Pope launched his
message of peace? Is Bergoglio asking of us, without further ado, to
place a veil of piety over victims of the firing squads, over the
innocent dead of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat and over all the crimes
committed by the Cuban dictatorship over more than half century?
He does not have the right to do so.
If we Cubans want to build a healthy and free nation, devoid of the
grudges of an ominous past, if we aspire to the Rule of Law, we must
mention the word justice before pronouncing the word forgiveness. We
must not make the mistake of ignoring and forgetting the pain of
thousands of Cuban families or we will suffer the consequences: revenge,
punishment and resentment. Without justice there will be no harmony,
because it’s a well-known fact that ignoring the horrors of the past has
never been a basis for achieving national peace.
Recent history is rich in examples of processes of reconciliation and
forgiveness in different countries. Suffice it to recall typical cases,
such as the Spanish National Reconciliation of 1956, a proposal aimed at
overcoming the schism caused by the Civil War won by Franco; or that of
Chile after the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet; or of South
Africa at the end of the apartheid regime and the creation of the
Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, through which the moral
condemnation of perpetrators of many violent crimes and of multiple
human rights violations was achieved, a process that allowed victims the
opportunity to offer their testimonies and publicly accuse their abusers.
Other examples, perhaps less conspicuous though no less valuable, are
the Commissions of Truth and Reconciliation that were created in Peru to
clarify the acts of violence experienced by the Andean country, victim
of terrorism led by the Shining Path and the Tupamaros groups, and the
military repression from the late 1970’s until 2000; or that of El
Salvador, at the end of its bloody civil war, to unravel the human
rights violations that took place in that Central American country
during the conflict.
Perhaps someday we Cubans will have to democratically assume the
responsibility to choose between impunity or condemnation of the
perpetrators for the sake of the reconciliation and reconstruction of
our nation’s moral force. Perhaps it will be impossible to fully satisfy
the thirst for justice of all the victims. The moral condemnation of the
perpetrators, at least of those who have not committed bloodshed, might
be preferable for Cuba’s spiritual recovery.
If we opt for generosity, a known character trait of our people, as
demonstrated in accepting, at the time, tens of thousands of Spanish
immigrants — including the parent of today’s dictators — in the Republic
born after the last war of independence against Spain, harmony will
exceed grudges, and we will prevent the establishment of the new country
over another spiral of hatred and exclusions.
But the patterns of a true national reconciliation will not be dictated
by the speeches of mediators or by the practices of the same victimizing
power. In order for the country to achieve true spiritual recovery and
lasting democracy, Cuba’s own people – whose dreams and voice are still
unacknowledged — will need to be the ones to decide to forgive or not
their executioners. For now, the culprits have not shown the slightest
sign of humility or repentance.
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness? | Translating Cuba –