On May 18 we welcomed Maria de la Paz Viniegra, RJM (Mari Paz) and Haydee Barrera, RJM (Chely) to Port-au-Prince. They are from the Province of Mexico and are assigned to Havana, Cuba. They came to offer a workshop on ESPERE and to prepare a small group that could then offer it here in Haiti.
The Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation, ES.PE.RE., is a pedagogical process where participants relive a painful event in their lives, whether recent or remote, in order to overcome the pain and the feelings of resentment and revenge that limit their enjoyment of life. This process allows the individual to overcome the disagreeable memory of the past, to carry out the processes of restorative justice, and to establish covenants that guarantee the offenses will not be repeated.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation constitute one of the most important assets in the rules of social capital necessary for the progress of people in a globalized world. It prevents and avoids retaliation or the settling of scores, a principal factor in the escalation of interpersonal as well as collective violence.
Words and memory are cultivated in community spaces of renewing encounter and leisure, where versions of individual and collective events are reconstructed from the perspective of encounter, truth, justice, and atonement.
The methodology of ES.PE.RE. (which received an award in 2006 from UNESCO) addresses situations of violence, recog- nizing emotional, discursive, and attitu- dinal factors of social and structural violence. ES.PE.RE is a methodological strategy that seeks each participant to assume an active role and move from being a victim of the offense to being a co-creator of his/her victory. It also seeks to open spaces for conversations about regaining security in oneself and in society and knowing oneself as a member of a network of relationships that have been broken by the attacks of life.
The program consists in 11 modules of work; each module takes about 3 hours. The first six modules are about forgiveness and the last five are about reconciliation. We worked for three intensive days on forgiveness, had a day of rest, and then spent three days on reconciliation. There were 12 people in the group who came from different places in Haiti as well as foreign residents in Haiti. The program took place on the premises of the Institute of Social Doctrine of the Church. The Institute has committed itself to promote and replicate this program with the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Haiti.
For some time, I have wanted to participate in the program and to do it here in Haiti. I have frequently felt the necessi- ty for Haitians to cure their historical, social, political, and personal wounds -- wounds that cause a lot of aggression and violence from all the scarcities and all the problems people have to face each day to survive in a country where life does not have value and the fight to survive has no lim- its or rules.
The experience was moving, deep, shared, cleansing and freeing. It was full of moments of personal and group reflections, of active and symbolic group dynamics that help to understand situations from distinct points of view and to situate oneself in a more detached stance in order to be more objective. A lovely atmosphere of friendship, of deep shared experiences, and of reflection united us in a special way with a desire to bring the program to more people so that they can benefit from its freeing and healing effects.
As a matter of fact, we have organized to begin translating the program into Creole and to organize a plan of action to replicate it in Haiti. I have become the coordinator of ES.PE.RE. in Haiti.
The sisters who gave the workshop, Mari Paz and Chely, were excellent animators and we are profoundly grateful for their having come to Haiti to share this experience with us. It has been worth the effort and we hope that our first Congregational priority may become a reality in Haiti.
Thank you for this beautiful experience!
Thank you to the province of the United States for supporting this initiative. It has been a great gift!
Isabel Solá Matas, RJM
(translated by Margaret Perron, RJM)