Can anyone be calm facing the violence we are experiencing? Is that our happiness is to eliminate the others because they are different, because they think different? If we fight for our rights, to what extent can this be done by trampling on the rights of others?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which existed since 1948) in its first article says that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and, endowed as they are with reason and conscience, should behave in a fraternal way with one another “. Today in Venezuela it seems that we are  years away from this. The point of departure of the "human being" is freedom, and much has been written about it, even centuries before these human rights were declared universal. Freedom above all is a gift, because it is the very essence of the human being made in the image and likeness of God, and to be free it is not indispensable that this be consecrated in a document or law, because it is our essence, our nature. That is why it is a true mystery that God loves our freedom more than anything else, with all the risk it involves. Because an inappropriate use of freedom, as we are witnessing in Venezuela, can also lead to destruction. God ran the greatest risk in history by subjecting his only son to the freedom of men, from the Yes of Mary, through death and resurrection to Peter's Yes (even after denying him 3 times). Therefore, in addition to receiving it as a gift, it is our task to educate in freedom, to respect others, to care for it as a great treasure and to defend it.

Paradoxically, in the face of injustice, violence and all kinds of violations of our freedoms, in many people emerges, in first instance, hatred, vengeance and the great temptation to eliminate the one who is different, even losing the original motives for which a person struggles for his own freedom. Then starts the inconsistencies and errors of perspective: justice is demanded for people imprisoned without a fair and transparent process, and the perpetrators are cursed and asked to eliminate them; violence is responded with more violence; before the right to be informed it generates more communicational chaos. It seems that what prevails in the face of evil is an equal or superior response, paying one injustice with another and generating an endless spiral of violence, which is also historically proven to be ineffective. It is not an issue to be exhausted  in this article, but it is very interesting to reflect on what John Paul II proposes, based on his experience of life under Nazism and Communism, (1) how in face of the ideologies of evil,  the good is always imposed.

The image of the lady standing in front of the tank that repressed a peaceful march of the opposition on April 19th, reminds us of Tiananmen Square and how the freedom of a human being is capable of push back an repressing instrument of power.

Photo: Leo Alvarez
If we look at the origin of the protests of the last years, we can discover that they are the manifestation of the realities that unite us as Venezuelans, rather than what separates us by our ideas or political stances. "Reality is more important than the idea," as Pope Francisco (2) recalls, because nowadays: Who can say that Venezuelans job earnings are enough to cover his basic food expenses? Who can get the medicines and be treated in a public hospital or private clinic? Who can circulate in the streets without the fear of being robbed, kidnapped or murdered in any of our cities? Even if we see the positions of people ideologically identify with the government (3) we see increased criticism of their management capacity. The only ones who fail to see this are those who cling to "power for power", or want access to it for the same reason.

This is why it is fundamental, in face of any manifestation of evil, or the inadequate use of freedom that negatively alters ours, to ask ourselves: What prevails in us? What exists and prevails in my heart to think that I am good, that I am clean of any sin and ready to throw the first stone? Are we part of a legion of saints and justly facing the demons? What Sister Esperanza did (masterfully captured in the photo), besides all the cynical and skeptical analyzes that have been made about her gesture and that of the national guard, opens a small crack of humanity, even in the victimizers, when someone  approaches with an unarmed beauty.

Photo: Donaldo Barros
Faced with the drama we are living in Venezuela it seems that for some the moment to forgive is not now, that the end justifies the means and that it is only possible to begin to forgive after having a mountain of dead people. Faced with a posture of this kind, St. John Paul II again illuminates us, when in 2002 he said: "There is no peace without justice, and there is no justice without forgiveness “. Because it is  necessary that every person guilty of wrongdoing should be subjected to an impartial justice, and that he bears the consequences of his acts, but, at the same time, has the opportunity to repent at some point (the ultimate meaning of any criminal conviction). In the same way it is necessary to create spaces and processes so that victims, in time and freely, can have the opportunity to forgive. To understand the value of justice and the need for forgiveness, one must look at "the experience lived by the human being when he commits evil. Then he realizes his fragility and wants others to be indulgent with him. Therefore, why not treat others as one wishes to be treated? Every human being holds within himself the hope of being able to resume a path of life and not be forever a prisoner of his own errors and his own faults. “(4)

While justice and forgiveness (without impunity) are key to healing a society wounded by death, like Vaclav Havel (5) I firmly believe that the hope for a country is to know and exercise the "Power of the Powerless" . And this basically consists of adding many Venezuelans to understand that peaceful protests are a right and also necessary, but must be complemented with proposals; that the defense and exercise of freedom has great power, but it requires the responsibility of building a country together. The right to protest for our rights should not go beyond, for example, the rights of everyone to study or work.

Additionally, it is important to be aware that a change of this type does not happen overnight, because we have to have the patience to understand that "time is superior to space" (6), and it is necessary to initiate processes, tend bridges that allow us to cross roads instead of building walls for suffocating fortresses. That is why we must never get tired of proposing and building from the responsibility that each one has in life:  to study to any kind of work.

Any government, weather we agree or not, or even the one  we consider ideal, needs to dialogue with an organized civil society that manifests its life through a multiplicity of educational works and solidarities, that give concrete answers to the needs of the citizens under the principle of subsidiarity (as much Society as possible and as much State as necessary). This is the true cultural challenge we face. In Venezuela there are many works of this type but they need to have access to equal mobilizations that the marches of the last weeks, where millions of people without an apparent power exercise, through their freedom and responsibility, had the great power to be protagonists for the construction of the common good.

Alejandro Marius

Translation: Graciela Pantin

1. San Juan Pablo II. Memoria e Identidad. Conversaciones al filo de dos milenios.
2. Papa Francisco. Exhortación Apostólica Evangelii Gaudium (231).
3. Varios Autores: | |
4. San Juan Pablo II. XXXV Jornada Mundial de la paz 1 de enero de 2002.
5. Vaclav Havel. El Poder de los Sin Poder.

6. Papa Francisco. Exhortación Apostólica Evangelii Gaudium (222).


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