The following is my translation of an open letter to the people of Venezuela issued by Central Presbytery, Presbyterian Church of Venezuela. They asked me to share it with my contacts. My personal summary of current events in Venezuela is available here. La carta está disponible en su idioma original.
Caracas, February 20, 2014
Presbyterian Church of Venezuela
TO OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS IN THE LAND OF GRACE
Venezuela has been known, is known, and we aspire that it continue to be known as the Land of Grace. The hand of the Creator blessed this portion of the planet with everything that a nation could want. Therefor its women, men, girls, and boys, as stewards of the homeland, find ourselves charged with ensuring the integrity of its soils, skies, waters, green spaces, animals, and of each one of the human beings who live in it, that is, our sisters and brothers.
For this reason, the Central Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela, gathered in its 34th assembly this past February 14-16, in Valles del Tuy, and in consideration of the troubling events that have taken place since February 12, addresses our sisters and brothers from the homeland of Bolívar. Our hope is to make a modest contribution toward peace and understanding among those who live in Venezuela, and the first thing we want to say with all our strength is – in the words of Jesus in the Gospel – that “every Kingdom divided against itself will be devastated; and a house divided against itself will collapse” (Luke 11:17b). All those who live in the Land of Grace are travelers on a single vessel. If the ship sinks we all will be lost with her.
How long will there be such insult and shame? How long such pettiness? How long such political calculus? How long such maneuvering?
We cannot build a nation of brothers and sisters with lies, with lawlessness, much less with violence and death. Violence and death only breed more violence and more death. In no way should we convince ourselves that deaths are a necessary evil and inevitable collateral damage on the road to the country we envision. Let us categorically refuse to give in to the questionable logic that “the ends justify the means,” since, as North American civil rights prophet Martin Luther King, Jr., put it: “Destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends, because the means represent the ideal in the making. Immoral means cannot lead to moral ends, because the ends preexist in the means.” True peace will never be achieved by the moral annihilation of anyone who defies our perception of what ought to be. This would only be a kind of “pax romana.” A peace of victors and vanquished. A false peace, within which will hide a rotting gangrene, eating away at society as a whole. As a church we seek a true and lasting peace. A peace in which we all win. Peace which is the fruit of justice, of reflection, of honest consensus and without concealed weapons. Therefore, we call on our fellow citizens to avoid sinking into an absurd fratricidal confrontation that benefits no one.
For us, Christ’s Church, the complex political problems of the country, as in the rest of the world, have as a structural base not only the usual socio-economic elements thoroughly considered and studied by social scientists. An even deeper, underlying level contains the “spiritual” component that makes the human being what it is. On the one hand we are the “image and likeness of God,” and therefore, creators and creative beings, beings with active will, spiritual beings called toward transcendence. But, at the same time, and notwithstanding all this beauty, we are capable of great and terrible coarseness. Within us lie evil, selfishness, greed, envy, hatred, resentment, revenge, and many other miseries that not even contemporary, enlightened humanity with all its technologies can eradicate.
In Venezuela it is time to assume a genuinely conciliatory discourse and actions, based on a recognition of the other, who thinks differently. A peaceful resolution will be virtually impossible on any other course. We encourage the political leadership of the sectors in struggle to understand definitively that, in addition to their own agents actively and deliberately committed to their partisan cause and their interests, there are huge masses of people with different positions regarding the current situation who in no way desire the collapse of the nation. The current political and social leaders must learn to respect and recognize the will for peace and tranquility that the majority of the Venezuelan people demand, already tired of the language and acts of constant confrontation.
We urge all political actors to stay within the framework of the Constitution. Violence as a tool for resolving differences will get out of hand, and eventually gobble up those who originated it. Violence can gain a momentary triumph, but will not produce lasting peace, as has been demonstrated throughout the history of humankind.
We urge those who work in communications—above all the large companies producing radio, television, and both print and digital press, but without forgetting those who spontaneously transmit reports through social networks—to honor information that is true and responsible, and as objective as possible. We remind you that it is an offense against divine justice to spread lies, twist and manipulate the facts, defame others, promote hatred and revenge, or maliciously hide the truth.
We urge big businesses in the country to work for true collective wellbeing and not only for their own, often excessive, profits. In the end, the wellbeing of the people, who require consumer goods and services, also represents progress for business. In that same vein, we require the national government to implement serious and relevant economic measures that stimulate the so-called national productive apparatus and lead unequivocally toward macroeconomic stability, but also toward stability of the domestic economy of citizens on the street. In short, we call on the public sector and the private sector to be sensitive to the real needs of a beleaguered people, each fulfilling its responsibilities.
We recognize the strenuous efforts of the national government toward a more equitable distribution of national wealth, which has greatly enhanced the visibility and dignity of vast sectors of Venezuelan society which were deeply neglected in the past. International bodies have recognized the social improvements that the Venezuelan State has achieved over the years. However, we also call on the leaders of the State to profound self-criticism and to effectively and visibly correct the vices it contains. For centuries our Reformed Christian tradition has pointed out the temptation faced by all those who govern to resort, whether openly or stealthily, to the abuse of power, attacking citizens’ rights. Inhabitants of every nation in the world aspire to have an efficient and healthy State that responds to their needs.
In the global geopolitical context we are a privileged country. In the bowels of our homeland lies a wealth of mineral and energy resources. We have significant water reserves and agricultural potential. We are a nation strategically located on the American continent. But it’s no secret that our greatest wealth lies in the people who inhabit our land. How wonderful it would be for all Venezuelans to see each other as sisters and brothers! How wonderful it would be to march together toward a legitimate goal, built by all!
As Christians, we invite our compatriots to look toward and take direction from Jesus’ Word of life. A Word that not only inspires us to rejoice in its beauty, but calls us to put it into practice. Jesus tells us, again and again: “This is my commandment: to love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14).
A very ancient text, taken from the Bible, reads as follows: “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12a). We want this blessing for our country. God bless Venezuela, Land of Grace!
Elder Berla Andrade de Vargas, Moderator
Elder Catalina Charris Morales, Financial Secretary
Reverend María Jiménez de Ramírez, Executive Secretary
Lay pastor Osdalys Francia de Miranda
Delegates to the 34th Assembly of Central Presbytery, Presbyterian Church of Venezuela
(Signatures on file at the presbytery)