I was very briefly in the UK 5th – 7th October. Hand luggage only I picked a small bag that we often use. When I arrived in England I noticed an old tag on the handle and thought ‘why have I not ripped that off before’. I grabbed it and was about to pull it when I saw what was on it ‘Catalonia OUT’. I have no idea where nor when the label was placed there. It looks like a hotel luggage label but where from I have no clue. I paused to think and thought ‘surely not’.
The ‘train crash’ that occurred here in Spain was perhaps always coming. Certainly Ada Colau, mayoress of Barcelona, suggested that, but she like others has expressed the shock that it has now taken place. We watched the vote in parliament, and of those who voted the vote for independence was overwhelming. We watched Rajoy, Spain’s president, give the government response. Two stubborn minded approaches, with no real give on dialogue. Meanwhile Colau asked a simple question amidst her rebuke for both sides – ‘have you ever thought about picking up the phone?’ This is what democracy has come down to. Now central government will restore law, order and democracy!! They have dismissed the Catalan government, the government that a few hours earlier declared themselves the government of a new republic.
The economy will suffer, tourism will be affected. But the suffering over the days ahead will be once again the people.
We went to Tarragona a few weeks back to pray. Tarragona being the place where the independista campaign was launched. Were our prayers ineffective? Possibly. ‘But God is in control’ has been one response we have had. The problem with that phrase is what on earth (and I mean ‘on earth’) does that mean? Does God control? I have the perspective that either that phrase should be dropped or it needs a huge amount of modifying to have any meaning ‘on earth’. God is at work in and through the process for sure. He is found in all the mess that we create, and that gives us hope. Prayer has to engage with what God is doing in and through this situation.
For three years we have been praying into the constitution of Spain – next year will be 40 years on – so again we are discussing how we up our level of focus on that. Whey do we want the constitution changed? Because for us it is binding Spain in a way that does not allow the diversity to flow. Together, juntos, and the word we are using more and more ‘convivencia’ is not simply about borders, and certainly not primarily about ‘sovereign nation states’ but about being together for ‘the other’. The illegality of a distinct people to have a referendum to decide their future does not accord with either the UN nor EU articles, but the constitution of Spain does not allow for such.
At the same time as the ‘illegality’ of Catalonia’s government the central government is busily avoiding answering where 40billion euros of public money has disappeared! The same party has some 8000 scandal cases documented against it.
Summoning and applying all the discernment I can find I think something needs to change!
Our task in these years has been to seek to hold space where a healthy politics can develop. For that to take place healing of deep wounds has to occur. That task is evidently not close to being over. What is deeply encouraging though are the few voices that are not taking sides but calling for a fresh path of dialogue and respect.
Elections have been called for December 21. The shortest day of the year. And 12 years to the day that Steve Lowton and team arrived in Rome, having walked from Whitby to proclaim that ‘from now on the day will get longer in Europe’. Back then we thought much more about ‘the church’ at the centre of it all. Now we think of the need for the body of Christ, hidden and humble, carrying the responsibility for our society. Much more demanding, much more exciting, and much more necessary.