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    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 –

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