Saturday, December 26, 2009

True Reconciliation

Earlier this month I wrote a few remarks on peace and reconciliation. Saturday, December 26, the front page headline of La Prensa, owned by a major backer of the coup, read:
A reconciliarse y olvidar rencores llama la Iglesia.
[The Church calls for reconciliation and forgetting of resentments.]
The call comes from the editorial of Seminario Fides, the weekly newspaper of the archdiocese of Tegucigalpa.

Quoting from the editorial the sub-title reads
“No tiene sentido alimentar diferencias que solo conducen a profundizar el atraso del páis.”
[“There is no sense in feeding differences which only lead to deepening the backwardness of the country.”]
I managed to track down the original editorial, which I don’t find very inspiring or prophetic. In parts, I find it very problematic.

It calls for peace and reconciliation and then notes that
It makes no sense to insist on feeding the grudges and differences which lead only to deepen the backwardness in which the nation is submerged, and which we are all called to put to an end in the shortest time possible.
It makes no sense to cling to the situations of the past when we have, right in front of our noses, a future which we have to construct. Perchance the past can serve us so that we may avoid committing the same errors and may assume our responsibilities as citizens with better faith and hope, with better responsibility and seriousness.
This strikes me as trying to build peace and reconciliation in a vacuum. Reconciliation must be based in reality, on the truth. One doesn’t cling to them, but one acknowledges them, faces the truth. Trying to build a new Honduras without acknowledging the injustice, the human rights violations, and the corruption is like trying to build a house of cards on jello. Truth is essential.

Furthermore, though the editorial notes the extreme poverty in Honduras, it says nothing about structural injustices and doesn’t identify the profound inequality in Honduras, one of the worst in the hemisphere.

In addition, I think the editorial opens a way to blame those who raise serious questions about the history of injustice in Honduras and the radical inequity between rich and poor which predates the current political crisis by decades.

But what I fear – from the headline in La Prensa – is that reconciliation will lose its deep significance and become a term bandied about only to serve one party’s advantage. The supporters of the coup seem to have taken the initiative in this sad game.

The first manipulation in an article in La Prensa is saying that this is the stance of the church. It is the stance of the editorial of the Tegucigalpa archdiocesan newspaper and therefore probably reflects the thinking of Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez. But it does not necessarily represent the stance of the entire Honduran church.

The article also quotes (and misquotes) sections of the editorial from Fides, but selectively – and at times out of context.

Speaking of the birth of Christ, the Fides editorial says:
In the face of the incommensurable goodness and generosity of God with us, we are called to respond in a like manner. Putting to the side hate, sterile confrontation, the differences which have been keeping us apart.
A nice thought, but vague. Yet look what La Prensa did, misquoting and putting it into a context of adversarial politics, not faith:
The pro-Zelaya groups and those of the new government [Micheletti's] have confronted each other. The editorial [from Fides] emphasizes that God calls us "to put to one side the sterile confrontations [note the plural] which separate us.
Presumably in their eyes the pro-Zelaya groups are responsible for sterile confrontations.

The La Prensa article, not surprisingly, does not quote the most prophetic paragraph of the Fides editorial:
It constitutes a crime of lèse majesté [insulting the king; treason] to be indifferent to the conditions of life in which those who are struck down by extreme poverty subsist. That indifferences means that one makes oneself an accomplice of the causes which are the conditions for the profound needs which offend the human rights of thousands.
La Prensa does quotes parts of the next paragraph, which reads in full in Fides,
Only the attitude which get translated into solidarity can lead to unity among all Honduras. And only by forging unity and being in solidarity, in the way Jesus did, can we have a capability to construct a country for all, full of justice and peace.
But La Prensa misses its meaning (or perhaps deliberately manipulates the text):
Finally it [the Fides editorial] points out that Hondurans are called to forge unity in the way Jesus did, since only in this way “can we have a capability to construct a country for all, full of justice and peace.”
No mention of solidarity, nor the context of the crime of indifference to the extreme poverty experienced by thousands of Hondurans.

Reconciliation has a long way to go in Honduras. The Honduran church as a whole clearly sees the need of dialogue and reconciliation, though I wonder if all the leaders know the depth of the divisions and the need to face the scandalous inequality here.

I think they’d do well to listen to the bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán. In an interview with Catholic News Service in August Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos urged dialogue and reconciliation – but with a twist:
And, taking into consideration our preferential option for the poor, we urge a dialogue between the unions, peasant groups and popular organizations on the one side and the economic powers behind the coup, which are linked to the transnational mining companies, the fast food chains and the petroleum distributors. The dialogue should be between these powerful groups and the poor and weak. ... The international community doesn't have anything to do with it.
Who lives with the shocking misery here—the lack of education and medicines, the lack of even sheets in the hospitals—are the poor of Honduras. So national reconciliation needs to be between the poor, represented by their leaders, and these economically powerful groups.
The need for the powerful to include the poor in any dialogue and reconciliation was not mentioned in the Fides editorial. Perhaps because it had a different purpose. But the failure to note the divides in Honduran society which date well before the coup and even before Zelaya’s presidency and the continuing exclusion of the poor and marginalized will most likely make reconciliation even more difficult.

I hope and pray we can work through these difficulties, challenging them faithfully and truthfully, seeking true reconciliation, where
"Kindness and truth will meet; justice and peace shall kiss."
Psalm 85

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary here. Honduras is extremely poor, but luckily many have done medical missions there. Our Think Tank wrote an eBook on this topic;