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Wake for the Public Hearings of Lima

Speech by Truth Commission President

Dear friends,
Tonight a shared feeling of pain gathers us. We are here together to proclaim our sorrow, our indignation and also our astonishment for all the horrors that Peruvians were capable of inflicting each other during twenty black years of violence. Therefore, we are gathered by the wish of saying no to that violence. At the same time we are here to express: our compassion, our solidarity, our identification with all those who suffered in silence aggressions, dispossessions and abuse, before the general indifference. I will be narrated in the public hearing to be inaugurated tomorrow. If the memory of violence overwhelms us, your sole presence here also authorizes us to proclaim an illusion that not everything is lost in our country if there are still people capable to feel others’ pain as their.

These wakes we are holding together tell us that Peru still has much room for hope. Wake means being awaken and all also keeping alert. These words, I think, fairly describe the truest sense of your solidarity and generosity tonight. I say so, because although it is common and very fair to oppose those who hurt us, it is less common among us to feel the offense received by others as one’s own. Hence, through this humanitarian gesture you convey an invaluable message, that all Peruvians, and not only those who were directly affected, should feel hurt for each aggression and for oblivion. There is horror in torture and death, in the abduction of parents, children and brothers. There is horror, and very deep, in those treatments that say that in Peru there are people who are not considered dignified people and full citizens because of the color of their skin, because of their language and because of their poverty. However, there are still some who declare it is better to silence the wrongs suffered as if silence were enough to cure centuries of segregation in a wounded and divided country.

On the contrary, silence is, as our recent history shows, one of the foods of barbarity. Silence is, and we proved it these days, the best way of becoming accomplices of an old tradition of discrimination that should embarrass us. With our acts and our works we proclaim that truth is the way by which people and individuals become free and that listening to the voices of those who were submitted to intolerable humiliations is a minimum act of justice and a way to start acknowledging as equals those who our history has condemned to perpetual humiliation. Certainly, truth can be tearing and unsettling and that it can confront us to the most shameful miseries. Certainly, facing a truth that deeply offends human dignity, men and women usually feel helpless and miserable. This is why many are used to avoid it and, even worse, wish that all the rest shared their fears. Those who act in this way do not know or forget that together with truth, hope dawns subtly oftentimes. Conceiving and feeding hope is another way of defeating fear.

If fear divides a society, if fear makes each one to take shelter in the small prison of his/her selfishness, hope is, on the contrary, a constructive way of living our existence in community. Hope embraces us with others and embraces us to life. This is why we should tell hope the same as poet Schiller exclaimed before joy: Your powerful magic gathers what fate had separated. Savagery wishes to devastate all hope, Savagery wishes to scatter the conviction that it is preferable to live sheltered from fear in mediocrity and deception. But those who, like you, fight against that and who, like you, are young at heart, have hope among their most cherished fortitudes. Hope is the firmest reason for which you, dear friends, are together with us tonight, together with us, awake and vigilant.

Salomon Lerner Febres
Truth and Reconciliation Commission President