The importance of the current internal dissident movement in Cuba (Pt. 3)
by Mons. Agustin Roman
Everyone knows that there are none so blind as those who will not see. I believe that only those may try to deny the importance of the current dissidents in Cuba, but, if one needs a convincing testimony about it, I think none better than the dictatorship itself: if those opponents did not represent a real challenge to the regime, then why do they repress them with such virulence? ... Why jail them? ... Why try to discredit them constantly?
The skeptics should be reminded that although the end result sought by the Cuban people has not yet been obtained by dissidents or anyone else, they have shown that non-violent civic resistance can jeopardize totalitarianism, as it happened with "Concilio Cubano" in 1996, in 2001 with the Varela Project and in 2003 with the ferment opposition that caused the "Black Spring" of that year, all of which shows that in these methods the potential to trigger the definitive change.
And at this point, it is clear that it would be logical that all Cubans, both on the island as in exile, ask ourselves what can we do to help the dissidents? ... We the exiles should ask ourselves what to do, between them and us, imparting all the possible effectiveness of the legitimate struggle for the liberation of the common homeland.
I could not offer policy prescriptions nor strategies for action, because I am not a politician or a strategist. I am a Cuban priest, a simple shepherd of souls, and as such, could only refer to what I learned in the light of the Gospel, remember what some of our great thinkers have suggested and recommend that we not forget the proven wisdom of our peasants, that which today is called common sense.
I said at the beginning of the urgency to reflect on these issues as we did today, because of the special circumstances that the Cuban nation is living at this moment. That same sense of urgency we should have with regards to the steps we must take. It is not for me to say what are those steps, but, whatever they will be will move us forward, and not backwards only if we take them through paths of virtue. ¨No homeland without virtue," said to us the first who taught us to think and it occurs to me that I could suggest some of the virtues necessary for our steps to lead us to the goals of the common good, that we want for Cuba:
1 - Firmness of principle and clarity of the objectives. We must be aware of what we want for Cuba: true sovereignty, rule of law and respect for human rights. This sums up all the other just demands such as, for example, the release of political prisoners, democracy, free elections, just proceedings, and so on. We should put forward, in addition, our non-acceptance of formulas that attempt to impede or obstruct the right of Cubans to freely choose their destination or promote continuity of this system or something similar, under the appearance of democracy, openness and reforms.
2 - Equilibrium. Humans are very susceptible to the passion that makes them lose clarity in their vision of things. Cubans are no exception to this rule, on the contrary, therefore, we must remember the wise words of the well named prophet of exile, our unforgettable Bishop Eduardo Boza Masvidal. He told us about this, I quote: "The equilibrium is not to dance the tightrope, but it is to adopt a clear and defined attitude that asks nothing borrowed from anyone, but is born of good doctrinal training and a dispassionate and objective study of reality "End of quote.
3 - Unity. Unity in diversity, which is as it should be, but firm unity, because if we have always needed it, it is essential to us today. You do not have to explain it to any Cuban how much damage disunity has done us. It is time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Do not forget what the Lord Jesus himself tells us in chapter 12 of St. Matthew: "Every kingdom divided against itself will become desolate. And every city or house divided against itself will not stand."
4 - Prudence and energy. The Servant of God and architect of Cubanness, Father Varela, recommended to the Cubans of his time in his "Moral and Social Maxims" not to mistake weakness with caution, noting that it "tells the man what he should choose, practice and omit in every circumstance." I would emphasize this valerian maxim, remembering that the first that prudence indicates is to think before acting. Varela also noted in "El Habanero", something which seems written for our day. I quote: "It is not time to entertain ourselves with particular accusations, or useless regrets. It is only to operate with energy to be free." End of quote.
5 - Justice, truth, forgiveness and reconciliation. I said earlier that the cause of the internal dissident movement, the cause of all of us in the end, is the continued pursuit of justice for the Cuban people. Cuba cries out to heaven for justice, justice is essential. The truth is the complement of justice and should be the first condition of our work and firm foundation of the society. Every Cuban will recognize the truth of their responsibilities and errors if we want to enter the new Cuba with the cleanness that we want. At the same time, the country equally needs of forgiveness and reconciliation in order to have possibilities of a future. A society that remains with its wounds permanently open condemns itself to a continuation of its conflicts and eliminates its possibilities to live in peace. Justice, truth, forgiveness and reconciliation are not mutually exclusive or contradictory terms. Our very remembered Pope John Paul II said with respect to the following, in his message for World Day of Peace on 1 January 1997. I quote: "Forgiveness, far from excluding the search for truth, demands it. The wrong must be recognized and, where possible, repaired ... Another essential requisite for forgiveness and reconciliation, is justice, which finds its justification in the law of God ... In effect - the Pontiff added - forgiveness does not eliminate or decreases the demand for reparation, which belongs to justice, but seeks to reintegrate equally individuals and groups into society. "End of quote.
6 - Faith, hope and charity. The most important I have left for last, because it's what surrounds and makes everything else possible. Faith in God because without Him every effort will be useless: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain," affirms Scripture. Hope in God, because through Him comes us all that is good: "Blessed are they who have placed their trust in the Lord," proclaims St. Matthew in his gospel. Charity, that is love of God and of our brothers, because we have already seen too much the fruits of hate in our people. Because charity is what God wanted for us, sent to us over the sea the image of the Mother of his beloved Son under the inspiring nickname: the Mother of Charity, Mother Love, Mother of the country. If what we do for Cuba, we do not do for love, better not do it.
If all of us who want the good of the nation, of the important internal dissident movement and the persevering of exile arm ourselves with these virtues, we will be effective. If we are committed to not let personalism, or the passions dilute them, we will have won. If we keep them and transmit them to all our people, we will have secured for Cuba a happy future.
I end with an expression of loyalty, affection and paternal recognition to the work of the Catholic Church in Cuba during this difficult stage in our history. On February 3, 1959 the first joint pastoral of the Cuban Bishops saw the light, which focused on the topic of education, those shepherds launched demands and questions applying to all of the deceptive revolutionary project that began then. Earlier, only two days after the triumph of the revolution, the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Monsignor Enrique Pérez Serantes, reminded the new government and the entire people why they had fought, saying: "We want and expect a purely democratic Republic , in which all citizens can fully enjoy the richness of human rights "End of quote.
Since then, the facts, well documented also show us the suffering Church, harassed sometimes more covertly than others, but always harassed, on the side of the people of Cuba. This was, perhaps, its most eloquent point with the pastoral "Love hopes all things", of 1993, but there is also a long and rich history, which one day will be known in all its details, of the generous, brave and quiet labor of the Church in favor of the legitimate interests and needs of the Cuban people in these times. It's not for nothing that the loudest cries of "Freedom!" Heard in Cuba in recent times took place in public places during the visit of John Paul II in 1998.
I also equally affirm my personal appreciation and respect for the internal dissident movement in Cuba and I do it from the heart of a Cuban naturally proud to be exiled, of belonging to this exile committed to the national destiny, full of men and women of faith and action, whose merits and virtues are not always fairly valued. When a happy end could be brought to the prison riots in Atlanta and Oakdale in 1987, I remember the excitement made me exclaim that day that if I were not Cuban, I would pay to be. Without a trace of arrogance, with great respect for all peoples of the world, I repeat it today: I would pay to be a dissident, I would pay to be an exile, because both are the same: Cubans, good Cubans trying to be better.
I should apologize for having forgotten the time limit, but I thought that the important choices we have before us Cubans right now, asked for these considerations that I wanted to share with you, taking advantage of the invitation of Father Felix Varela Foundation, which again I want to thank. Maybe I failed to add one of the virtues we need, is to say more in less time. But you, who are so generous, will understand, because you are Cubans like me.
Thank you very much everyone.
Bishop Agustín A. Román
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus
Miami, December 16, 2006
This remarkable and humble man of God lived a life in accordance with the principles and faith that he evangelized. Below is a short documentary where the good shepherd looked back over his life.