Oswaldo’s and Harold’s Nonviolent Legacy in Cuba: Demonstrating Love is Stronger than Hate“The people will follow me in life, worship me in death but not make my cause their cause.” – Mohandas Gandhi, taken from Gandhi’s poignant legacy
Marking two years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were physically taken from their families, friends and country presents an opportunity to reflect on their lives and the nonviolent example that they leave behind and the cause for which they gave their lives. Oswaldo’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo on what would have been the Cuban opposition leader’s 61st birthday addressed this legacy in an essay titled Fellowship of Truth:
“Oswaldo and Harold are no longer physically with us, and I remember now those words Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero prophetically uttered one day, knowing he was threatened with death: I will resurrect in the people. The same will happen here sooner rather than later. They and others who generously have lost their lives in this struggle for rights and democracy for Cuba, will be resurrected in her people. But his message of love is alive.”
This nonviolent legacy continues on in Cuba and offers a hopeful vision of the future. Oswaldo outlined it in a 1990 Christmas Message from the Christian Liberation Movement:
“The rifles will be buried face down, the words of hatred will vanish in the heart without reaching the lips, we’ll go out into the street and all of us will see in the other a brother, let us look to the future with the peace of he that knows that he forgave and he that has been forgiven. Let there be no blood to clean or dead to bury, the shadow of fear and of catastrophe will give way to the reconciliatory light, and Cuba will be reborn in every heart, in a miracle of love made by God and us.”
In January of 2014 following a brief interview Oswado’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo pulled out a copy of this message and read it to me demonstrating its continued relevance to the Payá family. Both Oswaldo and Harold understood the risks and sacrifices in undertaking this struggle. Harold Cepero summed it up in concrete terms in 2012, the same year he was killed:
“Christians and non-Christians who have the courage and the freedom to consider the peaceful political option for their lives, know they are exposing themselves to slightly less than absolute solitude, to work exclusion, to persecution, to prison or death.”
Presently in Cuba there are dueling legacies that run throughout Cuban history one is profoundly violent and embodied in the current political system and another one which is nonviolent and is a deep current that runs through the culture but not nearly as high profile. The nonviolent legacy that Harold and Oswaldo shared revolves around two key ideas:
• We are not against other people, only what they are doing.
• Means are ends in the making; nothing good can finally result from violence.
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