'We Assumed Task of Breaking Silence That War Victims Had Kept for years.'(Guatamalan Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera's Speech at Ceremony Delivering 'Historic Memory' Report, Two Days before His assassination)(Cover Story)(Transcript)

By Gerardi Conedera, Juan, Bishop | National Catholic Reporter, May 8, 1998 | Go to article overview

'We Assumed Task of Breaking Silence That War Victims Had Kept for years.'(Guatamalan Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera's Speech at Ceremony Delivering 'Historic Memory' Report, Two Days before His assassination)(Cover Story)(Transcript)


Gerardi Conedera, Juan, Bishop, National Catholic Reporter


This speech was delivered by Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera as part of a ceremony in which the REMHI report was presented in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala City on Friday, April 24. Bishop Gerardi was killed two days later.

REMHI, the Interdiocesan Project to Recover the Historic Memory, has been an effort within the Human Rights Ministry, which is part of the social ministry of the church. It is a mission of service to people and to society.

When confronted with political or economic issues, many people react by saying, "Why does the church get involved in this?" They would like us to dedicate ourselves strictly to spiritual ministries. But the church has a mission to accomplish in terms of bringing order to society, and that includes ethical, moral and evangelical values. What do the commandments tell us? They say, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And it is precisely to that neighbor that the church has to direct its mission.

Speaking to lay people, Pope John Paul II said, "An essential task of the church is to rediscover the dignity of the human person." This was also the evangelizing labor of Jesus. The Lord put the dignity of human beings at the center of the gospel.

Within the pastoral work of the church, the REMHI project is a legitimate and painful denunciation that we must listen to with profound respect and a spirit of solidarity. But it is also an "announcing." It is an alternative aimed at finding new ways for human beings to live with one another.

When we began this project, we were interested in discovering the truth in order to share it. We were interested in reconstructing the history of pain and death, seeing the reasons for it, understanding the why and how. We wanted to show the human drama and to share with others the sorrow and the anguish of the thousands of dead, disappeared and tortured. We wanted to look at the roots of injustice and the absence of values.

This is a pastoral way of doing things. It is working with the light of faith to discover the face of God, the presence of the Lord. In all of these happenings, it is God who is speaking to us. We are called to reconcile. Christ's mission is a reconciling one. His presence calls us to be reconcilers in this broken society and to try to place the victims and perpetrators within the framework of justice There are people who have died for their beliefs. There are executioners who were often used as instruments Conversion is necessary, and it's up to us to open spaces to bring about the conversion. It's not enough to just accept the facts. It is necessary to reflect on them and to recuperate the values lost.

We are gathering the memories a the people because we want to contribute to the construction of a different country. This path was and continues to be full of risks, but the building of the Kingdom of God has risks, and only those that have the strength to confront those risks can be the builders.

On June 23, 1994, the parties that negotiated the peace accords expressed their conviction that, "all of the people of Guatemala [have] the right to know the full truth" about the events that occurred during the armed conflict, and that "this clarification will help to ensure that the sad and painful pages of history will not be repeated and that the process of democratization in the country will be strengthened." They emphasized that [knowing the truth] is an indespensable condition for achieving peace. This is part of the preamble of the accord which created the Commission for Historical Clarification whose important work is also in the process of being concluded.

The church resonated with this desire and committed itself to the search to "know the truth," convinced as Pope John Paul II said that "truth is the strength behind peace" (World Day of Peace, 1980). As a church, we collectively and responsibly assumed this task of breaking the silence that thousands of war victims have kept for years. …

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