Riflessioni sul Perdono, sulla Dignità e sulla Riconciliazione

Mónica Eliana Jiménez de la Jara

1. I negoziati di pace, generalmente, sono incentrati sulle dimensioni politica ed economica. Quale è la Sua percezione della necessità di toccare aspetti più profondi e genuini della riconciliazione e come si può ottenere questo?

The truth is that negotiations are often based on assumptions that are not totally correct, such as the assumption that we need to focus only on political and economic perspectives. This is misguided because, in reality, peace negotiations would be better founded if they rested more on redefining the character and institutional order of the State with regard to sensitive issues like the security of our citizens. First it’s important to remember that how a state promises protection of Human Rights is defined by its legal hierarchy and this is not created by States or by the international community.
The essence of Human Rights solutions are cultural ones and it’s important to remember that how we introduce these profound changes will in turn affect much more than just politics or the economy. Here, a social aspect is involved that spans from family life to the local community.
The truth, as the Greeks say, is to manifest what is hidden. As the Romans say, it’s doing exactly as you have said. As the Hebrews say, it’s to create a solid base of trust. The truth is that the solid base of trust is in turn the base of social capital. From this point of view, the truth in Chile begins as an ethical and moral truth, which is represented by the Cooperation Committee for Peace.
This social truth transforms into pedagogy from the ranks of victims and from Human Rights organizations; from actions to protect the dignity of the people who refuse to use violence to protect themselves, who want to be consistent in their values because without these values, nothing positive will happen for those who they are defending.
The other entity that does this is the church, which committed itself at first in the Cooperation for Peace in the churches and later in the Vicarage of Solidarity, the Christ Church Foundation of Social Assistance, and the Service of Peace and Justice. These organizations make up a constituency that brought to maturity a social movement centered around the Civil Assembly, where all sectors were represented: teachers, native peoples, youth, the homeless, school professionals, etc. This became the social and cultural base, which was transformed afterwards into the Concentración of Parties for Democracy, and brought forth the Plebiscite of “NO”. From this Plebiscite came the Constitutional Reform of ’89, and a new vision arose which incorporated Human Rights into the very constitution.
Moreover, these institutions incorporated the historic experience of humanity expressed in this universal declaration and other international instruments, and took them on as their rule of action. This is to say that we are going to practice human rights in defense of those same rights. That is exactly what the act states.
With regard to the supposedly mistaken assumption, the correct path is not fixed solely on political and economic relations, or on quality of life, and must be based on much deeper factors. When this is not the case it is very difficult to make progress. Why does the crisis continue in Guatemala? The reason is that, although the peace agreements of that country are strong, they were not pedagogically adopted by the people in the Human Rights movement. Therefore all of the problems, for example violations of human dignity in indigenous areas where the majority of these violations occur, remain. The same thing is happening in El Salvador. When a cultural and social consensus that unites religions, philosophies, and visions of life fails to materialize, the world can’t create sufficient forces for a great restructuring and social coexistence that would inspire the process of reconciliation. Reconciliation isn’t returning to the past but making a qualitative jump. The Chile of today, from a fundamentally cultural point of view, is infinitely superior to what we had before when there was no capacity to withstand social tensions. This was the principle reason why everything broke down.
Today we see a new government that is much stronger because there are stronger rules about which all people are in agreement. These rules were created by the people through a process that has norms and values. Still, as in all processes of Human Rights, it is a process for marathoners, not sprinters. These are not short races, they are long ones and there is a long way left to go. In fact, the history of Human Rights is a race that goes back to individual rights, collective rights, and those of humanity. Today there is still a continuing debate that has not been fully recognized by society or individuals. This is the fourth generation to face questions concerning today’s Human Rights. This means there are current issues like assisted fertilization, rights to privacy and a dignified death, which this society has not realized. Although these topics are discussed daily, rarely, until very recently, has the topic of gender identity been discussed. This is now recognized as a Human Right and not just a social issue.
First, it is an ethical truth that our democracy had the intelligence to confirm a social truth. The Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, the Corporation for Truth and Reconciliation, the Valech Commission and others have publicly exonerated public administration officials. They transformed the ethical truth, which created the Human Rights Movement and, along with the Church, social truth. This social truth transforms institutional truth across all judgements, as demonstrated by the prosecution of the country’s former dictator, although he died before the process was finished. The former leader of the DINA and the CNI was prosecuted and convicted. It is worth mentioning that a judicial sentence legally has the same value as a law. Now, it is not a problem of ethical or moral opinion, nor is it one of social opinion and even less one of political opinion. Today the collective memory of Chile is not a selective one. Different ideological possibilities exist for everyone and the information they have has become part of an institutional memory.

2. Quali sono le condizioni nelle quali, al di là dell’assicurare gli interessi della parti in conflitto, può essere stabilito un processo incentrato su un senso di equità e dignità?

We have come to a realization about the value of Human Rights, but this realization has not changed reality or the daily practice of Human Rights within the population. This is a tremendously unequal society. For example, if we talk about quality of life, an essential value of Human Rights, we must ask; what is the per capita income of the population living in marginalized zones? What is the per capita income of the population that leads more comfortable lives? There are thousands of these differences. If there is an unjust distribution then, that is pat of life. In this country we have an average lifespan of 76 years, but this is not what the poor sectors experience. They hardly reach 67-68 years of age.
Obviously, quality of life is unequal in Chile, and resources are unjustly distributed. This is very clear. The conditions of individual’s lives are different. We are no longer talking about quantity of life, but rather the quality of life and one must ask about the possibilities people have to access science, art, and the use of technology. The facets of life that I can enjoy as a professional are infinitely superior to those that a Chilean worker enjoys. Do I have access to literature, art, and culture? Quality of life generates liberty, but liberty is not free will. On the contrary, we are speaking of the capacity for self-realization and knowledge of our selves. This relates to the third dimension of the value of life (quantity; quality of life and capacity for self-realization during ones life).
There is too much to cover. Discrimination in Chile is alive and well. The same applies throughout history, the discrimination against the indigenous populations, and discrimination against the poor, the young, and women. Not one of these has been overcome. Discrimination is a form of discrediting the first article of the universal statement: all human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights, gifted with reason and awareness, and must have fraternal conduct among one another.

3. Quanto il perdono è essenziale alla dimensione della riconciliazione? Alla radice della Sua cultura politica e/o della Sua fede religiosa quali sono i principi che implicano o escludono il perdono? Quali versi o detti che fanno parte del Suo personale patrimonio spirituale possono, nella sua opinione, avere un significato universale

The notion of forgiveness for all us Catholics is very clear. As Father Hurtado told us, one must do what they do with all their soul, because it’s clear that the mercy of God is never small in relation to the sins that one commits.
One must ask for forgiveness, as the Sacrament says, and this entails penance and the disposition to assume it and the willingness to improve ones’ self. No one can ask forgiveness without expecting penance.
Naturally, as Father Hurtado (a Chilean Jesuit priest, founder of Hogar de Cristo, who was canonized in October of 2005) said, “without justice there isn’t charity. Charity cannot begin developing in human beings if there has not been justice. Justice for crimes involves penance”.

Based on your political culture and religious faith, what are the principles that imply or exclude forgiveness?
Forgiveness is achieved because the person who begs it assumes fault and confesses. Additionally, one must seek to repair the damage that he or she caused and assume the correspondent penance. I cannot say that forgiveness is a magical act, because it is a deeply human action which is born from the consciousness of the harm that has been done and the willingness to repair it. Penance is incorporated in this willingness.
Under these conditions, once one has regained their dignity, obviously there is no reason to remain penitent if nothing is added to your personal development. The central idea of this law is based on the principle of need. All penal law is based on the law of need.
Forgiveness is a process of reconstructing relationships but what part of a person, a person subject all laws and obligations, creates the facts that require it.
We must be clear that if some part of an individual does not fully recover in his dignity, forgiveness is of no avail; on the contrary, it’s very dangerous because that person believes that society has no moral authority to sanction.
The principle authority of the State allows for the growth of the person that enters the process of forgiveness. This way he or she develops dignity and the ability to create fraternal relations with others and, in the end, to respect the dignity of others and as well as himself or herself.
The practices that shocked us during the dictatorship are rooted in Chilean culture. We are appalled by the torture that took place during the dictatorship, but we do not see a connection between this and agonizing aspects of daily life. For example, when we go to a mall and see a child having a tantrum while holding the hand of his or her mother, who responds “if you do not behave, I will give you to the security guard and call the police to take you away.” This is psychological torture. Imagine how the child will develop when the person who he or she sees the most, admires and loves, threatens to give him away, to get rid of him or her. Such actions are daily occurrences; blackmail and threats in the family life are the basis of domestic violence. From there begins a ring of deception, lies and threats.

In your opinion, what verses or sayings that form part of your personal spiritual patrimony have a universal significance?
Firstly, what I already have cited from Father Hurtado: Every human being must abide by the maxim that they must do whatever they do with all their soul. No one can say that they have dignity if they do not make this the fundamental driver of their life and honor it every day.
The second essential phrase is that liberty is responsibility. With liberty comes a responsibility of one’s dignity and it is not the authorization to do what one pleases. It is the heavy burden of freedom and we must learn to respond to it. This it is difficult and complicated, but it can be done.

4. Il perdono richiede qualche forma di pentimento da parte di coloro a cui il perdono viene offerto? Il perdono ha condizioni o è senza condizioni?

No, one should never offer forgiveness. One must be willing to forgive he who asks for mercy, but no one should offer forgiveness. You must be willing to do so upon request and by the procedure I outlined. There is an element that is essential in these processes that can be the most serious problem; victimization. When a person abandons their original identity and replaces it with the identity of a victim, then he or she becomes the product of one’s own victimizers and he or she ceases to be their own person.
There is a process of self-destruction among victims that is serious for the relatives of those political opponents that were disappeared. They need to know the history of their families. They need the full truth in order take care of themselves because otherwise they feel they are betraying others. This connection to acts of barbarism can be very serious. Remembering this past can make life a terrible thing and cause one to lose their personal sense of worth.

Forgiveness should be conditional or unconditional?
If the process of which I have spoken develops, then the conditions necessary have been fulfilled. The recognition of fault and of the damage caused, and the sentence completed… what else? There can never be unconditional forgiveness for a Catholic. If there isn’t a will to rectify the situation, as the sacrament of penance says, then forgiveness will not be reached. It’s that simple, and though formally the priest blesses and gives you absolution, the sin remains if ones penance is false.
We must be clear that God never thought of unconditional forgiveness because it always goes hand in hand with the personal reconstruction of penitent.

Based on your experience working on reconciliation and forgiveness, which structure and activities would you suggest for a “Consejo Universal para la Reconciliación?” (Universal Council for Reconciliation)
My first recommendation would be very similar to that made by “Idea Internacional” in Guatemala. (International IDEA has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden). We have to make a very strong objection to the processes that led to the extreme crisis that has been experienced in all these countries. This by the way is some thing our country has not fully realized. If we do not understand how conflicts arise, we will take nothing away from experiences. This it is essentially an instance in which we are able to dig into history. The realities of life in the past and the realities of life now are, after all, those which express certain cultural trends in society.
However, I must add that each country does what is possible at that moment in time. In Chile, the Church accompanied the victims and saved information for a long time. Then came the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that addressed issues of the truth in the cases of the political opponents that were disappeared, detained, and executed. This proposed possible reparations. This allowed justice to begin to function and this process continues today. It will not stop until we know the legal truth for all of these victims. Subsequently, the State addressed the cases of torture victims, exonerated politicians, and redress was sought for each of those. It’s a long process, which is progressing slowly.

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