forgiving our enemies, Venezuela edition

In the late 1990s John Paul Rathbone worked in Caracas as a journalist. He returned recently to accompany “a friend, the Benedictine monk Laurence Freeman, acting as his translator”, and subsequently wrote a wonderful account of the experience. Here is a brief excerpt.

[W]e stop for lunch at a house in Country Club, Caracas’s richest district. Through the tropical vegetation masking a chain-linked fence, I glimpse carts puttering around a manicured golf course. Over pabellón criollo — a workers’ staple of rice, beans and shredded meat now unaffordable to most — I hear a story about our host, a businessman, who was kidnapped. The mobsters gave him a Bible for solace, and he took up meditation during his captivity. A year later, when the ransom was paid, the kidnappers told him he was free to go — with the proviso that he did not pursue them afterwards. “I won’t because I forgive you,” he said. “How can we trust you?” they replied. “Because that is what I believe,” he said, pointing to gospel passages about turning the other cheek. His sincerity was such that the kidnappers burst into tears.

Venezuela is a reminder that crisis can bring out the worst in people, but also the best. As Father Laurence emphasised, deep humanity exists in unexpected places — even among enemies — and so too forgiveness and the possibility for reconciliation, given a little meditative presence of mind.

Caracas Diary: John Paul Rathbone on finding deep humanity in unexpected places“, Financial Times, 5 November 2016 (metered paywall).

John Paul Rathbone, the FT’s Latin American editor, was born in New York, is a graduate of Oxford and Columbia universities, and currently lives in London. He is son of a British father – Conservative MP John Rankin Rathbone (1933-2002), and a Cuban mother – Margarita Sanchez y Sanchez. He is author of The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s Last Tycoon (Penguin, 2010), a biography of pre-revolutionary Cuba’s wealthiest man.

 

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