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Claretian Missionaries – PROCLADE Internazionale

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Peace and Reconciliation Initiatives from the Basque Country I SDG 16

by | Nov 12, 2022 | Europa, Peace | 0 comments

Peace and Reconciliation Initiatives from the Basque Country I

Word that sows Peace

Aitor Kamiruaga Mieza, cmf.

General Director of Claret Larraona School

“Peace is such a good that one cannot desire a better or possess a more useful one,” wrote St. Augustine in his famous work De civitate Dei. Nevertheless, today’s society strives to find ways to ensure this great good. So many centuries of human history confirm that humans have spent great moments immersed in a violent struggle without managing to make this longed-for reality a constant in their life experience. However, this same history shows us that humanity also knows how to experience beautiful moments where peace turns from a dream into reality.

Being born at the end of the 1960s in any town in the Basque Country means knowing nothing but the violent history that drags towards frustration the best expectations of a society that wants to build its future in peace. The deadly attacks, the more or less prolonged kidnappings, the revolutionary tax, the street violence, and so many painful realities have taught us, almost inadvertently, not to trust anyone or anything. Defeatism and despair have occupied high levels in our formation, inviting us to a lack of interest in the integral development of society: the common good through the complete realization of all the citizens of the Basque Country.

During its sixty years of history, between 1958 and 2018, the organization ETA-Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Country and Freedom) sowed terror throughout the Spanish state, especially the Basque Country and Navarra, where most of its attacks, kidnappings, violent demonstrations, economic extortion called “revolutionary taxes” took place… ETA defined itself as an organization that proclaimed the nationalist independence of Euskal Herria (Basque Country and Navarra), with a socialist and revolutionary character. Its brutality resulted in 864 people killed, with the vast majority of its attacks occurring between the 1970s and 1990s.

Without wishing to fall into the pessimistic vision of the circumstances we inherited from our elders, we can find numerous voices raised in the Basque society to condemn the generalized violence and build the paths that will lead us to peaceful and pacifying coexistence. There has been no lack of proposals for social commitment so that the joint effort of all the people makes us build peace for all humanity.

The Bishops of the Basque Country and Navarre have offered abundant and systematic material for the reflection and growth not only of those who declare themselves to be Christian faithful. Concerned about the social circumstances, they have wanted to reach all consciences. Also, those who have freely and voluntarily decided to leave the Church. We know that your magisterium has been attentively followed by all those consciences who want to grow in realizing their personal and social lives.

The Claretian Missionaries, from the different evangelizing platforms, have bet for education in favor of peace. In our educational centers, throughout the years of greater violence, the so-called “peace workshops” emerged: groups of young people who, in the light of the different writings that were occurring, reflected and prayed about the construction of peace in our society, beginning by promoting peaceful coexistence in the exact center.

These groups, together with those in charge of the pastoral ministry of the centers, were the ones who energized the actions that were developed each year for all the educational stages in the so-called Peace Campaign, which was carried out throughout January. This campaign had its culminating moment with the celebration of a gesture for peace, in which all the center’s students, along with the staff and families who wanted to attend, demonstrated peacefully in the courtyard. This gesture is still maintained because the campaign for peace is carried out every school year.

From these workshops arose the gestures for peace that were made in the school playgrounds when any violent attack occurred. At break or recess, the group in charge carried a banner that presided over the five minutes of silence in favor of peace. In the early years, almost all gestures were developed in response to violent attacks by ETA. Subsequently, other realities of violence were gathering students who wanted to express their desire for peace.

On the other hand, in 1986, the platform “Gesto por la Paz” (Gesture for Peace) was created, in which groups and associations of different ideologies converged, seeking to make concrete proposals for the pacification of the Basque Country. The Claretian community of our school Askartza Claret, in Leioa, Biscay, was one of the institutions belonging to the movement.

One of the most significant actions developed by the platform was the concrete gestures carried out in the central places of all the towns. These were peaceful meetings in silence, around five minutes. These were moments of great tension because, in front of this group that promoted the friendly processes, there were usually other groups belonging to the nationalist left wing that would shout insults and insults at the peaceful groups.

Aitor Kamiruaga Mieza, cmf.


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