Peace and Reconciliation Initiatives from the Basque Country III
Ethics in the service of peace, with three vectors
Aitor Kamiruaga Mieza, cmf.
General Director of Claret Larraona School
1. Peace is born of justice.
T.he desire and the will to desire peace must be translated into practical actions in favor of that peace. The coherence between what we want and concrete steps is the basic presupposition for consensus to emerge from relationships based on justice. Conflicts and social confrontations are usually based on the fact that a more or less significant part of the social community feels that its rights are not respected. Violence becomes the most painful manifestation of the struggle to conquer these rights.
Working for justice implies defending human and group rights, which are inalienable and inalienable. Fostering human and social relations that authentically respect the dignity of the human person necessarily derives from social justice. Equality and human dignity are not issues to be negotiated between ideological interests. Thus, there is a clear rejection of everything threatening the human person: kidnappings, revolutionary taxes, threats, assassinations, etc.
Likewise, the human face of the incarcerated person cannot be erased or used as a bargaining chip. This is true even if the convicted person has committed blood crimes against others. The rights that attend the person of any prisoner must be respected in the case of the members of the ETA organization if we do not want to immerse ourselves in a flagrant contradiction when mediating with the dignity of any human being.
Respect for the human rights of each person extends to the rights of communities and social groups. The human being develops in a social gathering so that this same society is protected by rights that ensure its social, political, economic, and cultural identity. It is up to the community to dictate the wishes of its will to develop fully.
Although public order cannot be fully equated with social peace, there may be circumstances in which force and power cause respect for the established order to be given through a dictatorship; nevertheless, it ensures a peaceful social coexistence. Public institutions, democratically elected, have their fundamental mission to promote the common good of individuals and people. In this sense, there is an urgent need for confidence in democratic institutions, provided that they ensure respect for their purpose. A society that seeks to develop amid widespread distrust in those democratic channels that ensure the maintenance of public order will be endemically damaged to construct a peaceful future.
The commitment to social justice that ensures a human community’s peaceful coexistence must help transform the conscience that relies on the force of violence through arms to ensure the effectiveness of civil and democratic procedures. Despite the painful processes and suffering that may be endured, justice always calls for resistance in the face of evil rather than relying on the means that express aggressiveness or violence.
While recognizing that a certain degree of conflict in social coexistence is inevitable, we must work for the humanization of confrontations and not for processes that tend to turn the struggle for power into an absolute and daily occurrence in social life. Trust in the goodness of human beings invites us to ensure that impersonal and fundamental forces do not gain citizenship. The social justice that underlies peaceful coexistence should not be the exclusive task of those who have become authorities but the responsibility of all citizens.
2. Peace in the exercise of truth and freedom
Progress in social relations and the maturity of human conscience bring with them the desire for authentic and complete truth. Amid the plurality of ideologies, each option is common to defend its truth’s legitimacy, for which it feels the need to disqualify those it considers opponents and even enemies. However, in an adult and autonomous society, the passion for the truth of facts has become one of the most reputable maxims. Nowadays, and with the advance of the media, it is pathetic to pretend to continue deceiving public opinion, distorting the data offered by the same social reality.
Respect for social life demands that truth should not become a two-way street that acquires different nuances depending on how one tries to judge the performance of other options. It is a matter of establishing objective criteria that ensure not the principle of efficiency but respect for what is authentic. Playing with diverse and confusing interpretations will not contribute to the resolution of social conflicts but to their entrenchment. In this sense, the truth of self-criticism, a capacity that examines one’s options and ideologies in the light of what the rest of the positions may affirm, is imposed.
The understanding of human reasons through dialogue manifests the maturity that a society may have reached. Talk invites us to overcome the dogmatism of our options, understanding that all people construct truth. Whoever clings absolutely to the reality of his ideology will place significant obstacles to overcoming conflicts. This does not mean that the person or the group cannot maintain their deep convictions, but that these must be read continuously from reality. It presupposes knowing how to discern between what is historical, and therefore changeable and transformable, and what are principles whose renunciation would mean the loss of human and social dignity.
The proclamation of the rights of freedom of conscience, opinion, and concrete action that the individual and the social community have is a conquest of modernity that favors the construction of peace. Violent political monopolies that try to impose themselves not by the force of reason but through fear, terror, and arms seem to be realities of a past that have been overcome and to which society does not wish to return. Attempting to legitimize and justify the use of violence against human freedom does not belong to the realm of human reason but to the law mentioned above of the jungle, where the one who imposes himself by force manages to dominate the situation.
Respect for the will of the majority democratically expressed, is the insurance that freedom proposes to the human and social conscience. Pretending that the will of the majority of a society should be suppressed by fear and terror does not fit within social relations in justice, nor can it find any justification whatsoever. The whole community, informed in truth and from its freedom, can choose the future it wants for its people.
The principle of freedom concerns, in the same way, respect for the conscience of all; without anyone being able to arrogate to himself the pretension of being able to represent another person or collectivity that possesses the legitimate capacity of expression. The last instance that can judge human action resides in the individual and personal conscience as an inalienable value. The conscience of the social group arises from the will of each person who wishes to join, in freedom, the conscience of other persons. In this sense, the conscience of Basque society has decided by a majority that violence is not the means it wishes to use to construct its future in peace.
The manifestations of generalized violence, of the attempt to conquer the street, contribute to favoring a culture where such a situation becomes normal. Faced with this fact, education at all levels must create a culture of non-violence, where it is possible to solve social conflicts without force. Respect for personal choices and tolerance of divergent manifestations, as long as they do not violate human dignity, are the bases that ensure future generations can commit themselves to the search for new formulas of social coexistence that provide peace.
3. Love is the foundation of peace.
Human reality cannot be stifled by historical circumstances that hinder its complete and authentic growth. History shows us countless moments when human coexistence has been in severe difficulties. We could point out myriad examples of conflicts resolved through weapons and violence. This can make us think that social coexistence is necessarily due to peaceful processes’ failure. Trust in God’s love and the goodness of the creative work awakens us to new hope.
If it is true that in the human heart, the greatest atrocities and projects that threaten the dignity of our fellow human beings are conceived; however, it is no less accurate that this same reality is capable of conversion. The desire to be expressed in constructing a peaceful social coexistence demands a transformation of his concerns and actions from the human being. The human being is the subject of the history we call human and, therefore, the protagonist responsible for his future.
If humanity today wants to build peace, it must be converted to the power of love. We have received love as a gift from God through the Incarnation of the Prince of Peace. A love that respects the image of Christ, which the hands of God have carved on every human face, and that is in solidarity with the best desires and commitments of his fellow human beings. A practical consequence of the commandment of love is the renunciation of the ways of violence and the honest attempt to seek other paths to human fulfillment.
We Christians learn from Jesus Christ his resistance to evil by dint of good, and the giving of his own life is the greatest exponent of his dedication to the end. Jesus lived to its ultimate consequences, the coherence between what he preached and his actions. With hi,m we receive the arrival of the Kingdom of God as a reality that transforms human relationships and reality. The power of love establishes new connections between people, where justice is not limited to giving to each one what corresponds to him but goes through the total renewal of the human person.
The experience of forgiveness and reconciliation that God has offered us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ encourages the Christian’s commitment to peacemaking. Reconciliation remains a gift of God for all humanity that wants to transcend the life and experience of every human person. God is the first who forgives and loves his enemies to the end and teaches us that the person on this path of salvation must learn to ask for and offer forgiveness. This faith in the reconciliation that God offers us invites the human being to reconcile with his brothers because the person can forgive those who offend him.
Forgiveness involves one hand that offers and another that welcomes. It is a two-way street. Whoever needs to build a renewed reality opens the door to that change through forgiveness. Forgiveness does not remain in a vacuum when the other person accepts the outstretched hand and reconciles with the one who has caused the wrongdoing. To pretend that reconciliation has a place within the social pacification process is not a beautiful utopia that cannot be achieved. Trust in fraternity and universal love invites us to hope that people will come to reconcile as true brothers and sisters.
The power of forgiveness and reconciliation builds a much more humane reality than behaviors demanding everyone receive what is. Feelings of hatred and revenge do not help to make a human reality because they will end up asking for the same currency. If the social fact wants to be renewed and pacified, human beings must learn to forgive and reconcile with their brothers and sisters. The aim is not to question the strength and legitimacy of human justice but to place it on a different plane, in the righteousness of love, which experiences that human nature cannot be made to hate but to love.
A final conviction centers on the importance of prayer for peace. If we recognize that human reality in its fullness is received as a gift from God, we should also address our petitions to him so that the longed-for peace may come to our society with the power of forgiveness. Those who pray wholeheartedly for peace are already laying a solid path for fraternal coexistence since authentic prayer leads to commitment for those for whom it is asked.
To pray intensely for peace means to be converted from the heart to the urgency of building the peace that God wants for humanity. That historical and concrete peace God promised to all men and women also fully reaches the society of the Basque Country. My trust in God and human goodness continues to encourage our prayer for peace so that our human and social commitment may result in an authentic,c peaceful coexistence.
Aitor Kamiruaga Mieza, cmf.