Thursday, July 27, 2017

Patria de Martí hosts conference on martyred Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko

 "A man who tells the Truth is a free man despite external slavery, imprisonment or custody." - Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko

Event tonight in Spanish remembers life of martyred Polish Priest
Tonight Patria de Martí is hosting a conference on the life of the Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko that will screen a film on is life "Messenger of the Truth" and also hold a panel that looks at parallels with the life and work of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.  As Catholics and human rights defenders that confronted a totalitarian communist regime they have much in common, including a defense of truth using nonviolent means and a rejection of hatred.

Father Jerzy Popieluszko in a sermon given in Poland on March 27, 1983 addressed the need to overcome hatred while explaining the need for justice.
Our Fatherland and respect of human dignity must be the common objective for reconciliation. You must unite in reconciliation in the spirit of love, but also in the spirit of justice. As the Holy Father said five years ago, no love exists without justice. Love is greater than justice and at the same time finds reassurance in justice. And for you, brothers, who carry in your hearts paid-for hatred, let it be a time of reflection that violence is not victorious, though it may triumph for a while. We have a proof of that standing underneath the Cross. There too was violence and hatred for truth. But the violence and hatred were defeated by the active love of Christ.
 Oswaldo Payá in a speech delivered to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 17, 2002 upon accepting the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought addressed the same themes. 
We have not chosen the path of peace as a tactic, but because it is inseparable from the goal for which our people are striving. Experience teaches us that violence begets more violence and that when political change is brought about by such means, new forms of oppression and injustice arise. It is our wish that violence and force should never be used as ways of overcoming crises or toppling unjust governments.  [...] The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together’. 
They share much in common in their views on how to obtain a lasting peace. Sadly their untimely deaths also do as well.

Father Jerzy celebrated a regular mass for striking Polish workers, listened to their complaints and let his office become the Warsaw headquarters for the Solidarity movement. He became incredibly popular and thousands sought to attend his religious services. The communist regime began to view him as an existential threat and began to harass, threaten him and make attempts on his life.

Documentary being shown tonight is available online
 According to The Washington Post article "Father Jerzy's Murder" published on September 30, 1990: "In late September 1984, SB officials decided Father Jerzy either had to be pushed from a train, have a 'beautiful traffic accident' or be tortured to death, according to court testimony after his murder."

A car accident was set up to kill Solidarity priest, Jerzy Popiełuszko on October 13, 1984, but he escaped it, only to later be kidnapped beaten, tortured and killed by three state security officers on October 19, 1984. His body was dumped in a reservoir and recovered on October 30, 1984. On December 1, 1984 two police men investigating the murder of the Solidarity priest in Poland died in a car crash.

The circumstances surrounding the 2012 death of  Oswaldo Payá have some disturbing parallels with Father Popiełuszko. Both received death threats, and prior attempts on their lives but continued to speak truth to power with nonviolence.

In Poland the leadership remained constant with Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski but in Cuba there was a change. Since Raul Castro took over from his brother in 2006 and a lethal shift in tactics was observed. As recently as 2003 Fidel Castro presided over sending innocent men to 25 and 28 year prison sentences for organizing and carrying out The Varela Project, a petition drive pushing human rights reforms, while threatening to have some of them executed before a firing squad. Seventy five new prisoners of conscience gave birth to a new formidable opposition movement in March of 2003, the Ladies in White.

It appears that the lessons drawn by Raul Castro and first learned by Cuban State Security when being formed and trained by the East German Stasi is that instead of long prison sentences, the shift was made towards continuous harassment, short term prison sentences, "accidents" organized to liquidate dissidents and the occasional brutal killing to strike fear into the populace. The calculation was apparently made that this was more effective and drew less attention than a large number of prisoners of conscience serving long prison sentences.

This is not to say that Fidel Castro back in the 1960s and as recently as 1994 and 1996 did not organize intelligence operations to kill innocent Cubans.  The July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo"tugboat massacre and the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down are two examples of the regime's brutality with a body count that stretches back 58 years.

Further evidence that the "car accident" was a premeditated act arranged for Oswaldo Paya was that this was not the first time; the regime had also tried with another vehicle 20 days earlier while he was in Havana.

On July 22, 2015 the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) published a legal report that concluded that in the case of Oswaldo Payá “evidence, which was deliberately ignored, strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident, but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state.”

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