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Discursos en ceremonias y otros

Young People Meeting
– Words from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission President–

Dear friends,
During the two years of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s term we have found across the nation not only the harshest truths about our recent history but also encouraging demonstrations of optimism and commitment to building a fairer and more peaceful community. Let me assure you that among these manifestations, few have moved me so deeply as the meeting of young people that has now arrived at its end. Meeting you here, at the Catholic University’s gardens, where you have spent one whole day reflecting about the violence that Peru experienced in recent decades and taking up a commitment for the future, is the best encouragement members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could get for the last part of our work. Now that we are preparing to deliver our final report to the nation, your gesture shows that our efforts were not in vain and for that I want to express my deepest gratitude.

There is more than one reason to say that this meeting of young people was critical for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I want to mention just one that is directly related to your debates and conclusions today. The task of shedding light over a reproachable past although always necessary and just, gets its full meaning if it helps in building a better future. But that future belongs to you. And by saying this, I do not just acknowledge a right that belongs to the young but at the same time one of their duties.

In fact, adults must sincerely and openly acknowledge the major failures of a society like ours which we inherited but also modeled and preserved. But it is the young people’s duty to demand that such acceptance will mean canceling a past that shames us all while simultaneously starting a very different future.

We can’t forget that the decades of violence we discuss are not part of your direct memories but with only slight exaggeration a period of national history that you will study in school or university. And yet, it is a fragment of our history that is still alive and that for thousands of victims, more than history this is a living memory.

In a way, you will inherit the memory of those years, a memory we have tried to reconstruct in these two years. It is a known fact that the historical memory of a nation is not always transparent and faithful Oftentimes it is disfigured by private interests that survives thanks to the indifference of most. Our country preserves a disfigured, distorted and partial memory of the years of violence and our first and foremost task is therefore to provide a true history that will not result from the selfish interests of a few but the consequence of fact finding. It will be your responsibility to fight so that this memory, once exposed, will not be sequestered or silenced but will make its way into our schools and homes, walk the streets, be broadcast in the major media and live inside each and everyone of us because only thus shall we be able to truly change the mistakes of our society.

Of course this will be no easy accomplishment. Too much indifference subsists in Peru and the story we are going to tell is hard to swallow. It is hard and will be difficult to accept. Not only because it talks about the past but most of all because it exposes our present miseries. The same mistakes, the same defects that led to thousands of deaths are still found everyday around us where we find racial and cultural contempt of some Peruvians towards others, contempt that is still alive in our language, our daily lives and in the images broadcast by the media. We still found them in the banal, and selfish interests and the ignorance of political leaders who far from accepting their past blame and responsibilities, find a thousand excuses and purport to lead the society they ruined. We find them in the media, the dailies, radio and television networks, who remain as insensitive today as yesterday to all humane consideration for the tragedy we experienced and are driven mainly by their interest in using the truth we wish to reveal for their business and political gain.

Under such circumstances it is absolutely clear that the hope to rebuild our society resides in our young people. What for you is a right, the right to live in a society that will be less inhuman that today’s, becomes strictly speaking a duty. The duty that is born from knowledge, and wisdom because we can no longer say “I did not know”, “I did not hear”, “I did not see”. Those are nothing but childish excuses used by as many politicians and government officials to evade their responsibilities in human rights abuses and corruption scandals.

You will know what happened and must compel the rest of the nation to know what happened too. And based on that knowledge and acceptance, you will also be compelled to take up commitments that are certainly more easily said than done.

Because it is easy to ask for a fair society where there will be no social, racial, cultural or gender discrimination. It is harder however to spend one single day in our lives without an act of discrimination ourselves, and we must never forget that discrimination may be apparently insignificant and trivial but will still deeply humiliate that person we discriminate against.

It is very hard indeed to shed that culture that permeates our collective life, those habits and values that were instilled in us by a society of privileged and excluded peoples. And the task young people have ahead of them is therefore hard because it implies a transformation in you as a requisite to change the society where you live. Reforming our institutions, abiding by the law, improving education, retiring the present political class, restoring the authority of Congress and government, giving all Peruvians without distinction a full citizen status. These objectives can no longer be put off, but will be hard to accomplish without a sincere acknowledgment of the past and its influence upon our present in a spirit of genuine repentance and disposition to change.

In truth that is revealed and taken up without reservations, we find the seed of reconciliation that in Peru can mean nothing but a deep transformation of our social structure and our habits of coexistence. This seed, this message of truth and justice, must be broadcast and planted all over the nation. And nobody is better suited to do so than yourselves who are imbued with enthusiasm so typical of youth, the spirit to create something new, and the will to change yourselves and in doing so, change our country. I am persuaded that this meeting, and your generous effort in this long day of work, are an announcement of different and better times to come. On behalf of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission accept my renewed gratitude for that and for the strength we get from your attendance to this meeting.

I call upon each one of you to persist in that participating, active, cheerful, supportive, and committed search for truth and justice in Peru.

Salomón Lerner Febres
Truth and Reconciliation Commission