Giles Tremlett is British but has lived in Spain acting as a correspondent for the Guardian newspaper and is occasionally interviewed also on Spanish TV. He authored a book which we read early on in our time in Spain, ‘Ghosts of Spain’. Reading the book it became clear that he had embraced the land and the article that I reference here gives a good current read on the Catalonian situation: Catalan separatists prepare for war of attrition against Madrid.
In it there is a telling quote from Fernando Garea of El Confidencial (online newspaper):
Now that we are at the cliff edge, it seems that there is no option but to step over it. We can then continue arguing from the bottom of the gorge.
The situation changes day by day. Almost certainly this week the government will have ratified the use of article 155 and impose direct rule on Catalonia. How will this work out? Will the Catalan police (the Mosos) take orders from Madrid or defy them? The same police who were praised across Europe for their handling and swift response to the Barcelona attack, and then heavily criticised for their refusal to exercise force (violence?) on the day of the referendum. How comfortable will it be to be one of the drafted in police personnel to restore order to a territory that you do not identify with? And what about if you are one of the suited people brought in to replace a local person in an administrative position?
Over the weekend the foreign minister was interviewed on British TV and he held that many of the images of violence were ‘fake images’ or ‘fake footage’. How this term,’fake’, is being used and now part of political speech is seriously alarming. The media being silenced is such a sign of oppression and dictatorial rule.
In most situations, such as the current one, there is propaganda on all sides. Stubborness and pride is evidenced on both sides. What is sure there will be more losers than winners in this conflict – witness already the departure of over 1000 businesses from Catalonia.
Maybe as an observer the hardest part is seeing the squeeze on Catalonia not simply from Madrid, but from Europe. Refusing to get involved (officially) but clearly all the powers are on Madrid’s side. The main European powers are involved but are not involved at a peacemaking level. They have not pressed Madrid to take in their quota of refugees – in direct contrast to Barcelona’s powers that have sought to open their door and heart to refugees.
We have prayed over these years into divisions within the land. First into issues surrounding the civil war, then into the both the Jewish and Muslim expulsions. Such divisions have to be healed and what we are witnessing today in Catalonia is not a recent division, but a historic wound that is being re-opened (time does not heal, reconciliation does). It is being re-opened either because it cannot be covered over for ever or the situation is being deliberately manipulated. Either way we believe that what is taking place – in terms of exposure of the division – is necessary. The conflict, the pride, the suffering of people is not necessary, but will be inevitable unless healing is brought. Oppression through article 155, loss of economic power through companies relocating will not resolve something. Nor, should Catalonia get independent status, resolve something either.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
We have prayed often for one peacemaker, Ada Colau, mayoress of Barcelona. From an activist background, not an independista, and one calling for dialogue.
We also carry a perspective that, whether it is Catalonia, or the Brexit (or Lomabardy and Veneto in Italy, and probably a growing number of other European regions) that there is something deeper taking place. There is a re-shaping of Europe that we believe is surfacing. Our biggest concern on the Brexit was not of Britain leaving Europe (and of course there was a rhetoric ‘we are not leaving Europe only the EU’!!) but of a disengagement from believers in the UK with the political, social and spiritual development of Europe. 500 years on from a Reformation that changed so much, yet left so much (christendom) in place. I am not a Zionist (surprised?) but there is something of a move back to Jerusalem, not for some doom and gloom Armageddon (the place does not exist – John makes the name up!). That move back – and I have been declaring this since the late 80s is back through north Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle Eastern nations. What would a Jerusalem look like revisited by a (political – small ‘p’) gospel recovered that Paul and others were passionate about? Surely marked by convivencia (the co-habiting of space by those who have found a way through their differences). This is not about a political solution, but a spiritual one with a deep political and social manifestation.
It is very hard to know how to respond to the current crises. We have thought about renting an apartment in Catalonia and taking shoes of peace on the streets. We might need to do that. But there is always something we can do today. Align not with a ‘side’, but with justice and seek to see everyone as ‘human’. Maybe then we will get fresh sight on the one true human.