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An amnesty? Christians in Spain disagree over the solution to the Catalan conflict

While the Spanish Prime Minister defends in Brussels his law to “start over”, many doubt that undoing the judges' sentences will bring a rapprochement between strongly opposing positions.

AUTOR 16/Daniel_Hofkamp,7/Joel_Forster MADRID 14 DE DICIEMBRE DE 2023 13:07 h
The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, speaking at the European Parliament on 13 December 2023. / Photo: European Parliament[link]CC-BY-4.0 European Union 2023[/link].

The European Parliament lived a heated debate around the amnesty of pro-independence politicians and other people in involved in the unauthorised Catalan independence referendum of 2017.

On 13 December, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who just formed a government to remain in power for four more years, went to Brussels to speak about the results of his country’s presidency of the European Union, which between EU member states every 6 months.  

But the debate flared up when European People’s Party leader Manfred Weber accused Spain’s left-wing government of “undermining the rule of law” after Sánchez reached an “extremely worrying” political agreement with pro-independence parties under which those involved in the unilateral Catalan independence process from 2012 to 2023 will be eligible for an amnesty law that nullifies the prosecutions and sentences imposed on them by the courts. This includes hundreds of politicians, police officers, protesters, and other individuals who have been convicted of breaking the law.

Speaking at the European Parliament, the Spanish Prime Minister defended the exceptional measure as a way to “start over again” in Catalonia, and to facilitate a rapprochement in a region with a polarised society. He also said the alternative to his government in Spain was the far-right.

Recent surveys in Catalonia that a majority would now vote against splitting from Spain, but the Spanish constitution does not allow the organisation of such a referendum.

Meanwhile, protests on the streets against the new government deal in Spain and the amnesty law have gathered hundreds of thousands in many cities of Spain in recent weeks. On the other side, separatist leaders in Catalonia have said the legal pardon offered by the government in Madrid would not put an end to their dream of holding an independence referendum in a few years’ time.


A long conversation among Spanish Christians

The whole debate in Spain comes down to the question of how to resolve the deep wounds created by a decade of political divide over identity.

On this issues, evangelical Christians in Spain have expressed divergent points of view. The Spanish Evangelical Alliance expressed its “worry and pain seeing the crisis in Catalonia”, while the Pentecostal, Baptist networks called to pray and engage in peacemaking.

Public forums on the Catalonia conflict were organised among Christians, as well as private conversations between Christian leaders from different regions and sensitivities.

From Brussels, the European Evangelical Alliance called to trust in the gospel to “build bridges rather than walls” between those who disagree.

[photo_footer] One of the protests against the amnesty law, in November 2023.  [/photo_footer]

Is dialogue still possible?

‘Dialogue’ has been the most mentioned word by Christians these years, but is it possible to reach a dialogued solution in this scenario?

“In Spain we are experiencing a clash of nationalisms, centralist nationalism against peripheral nationalisms, and they are absolutely irreconcilable because each feeds off the other”, thinks Jaume Llenas, a Catalan evangelical pastor. “There are no peacemakers, no one plays the card of moderation and consensus-building clearly and convincingly. Everyone seeks the defeat of the rival, rather than agreement with those who are different”.

But Christians have the duty to “reflect that we are of the Father’s family in that we seek peace and reconciliation”, Llenas says. “We may have political opinions and think that the best thing for our country would be one solution or the other, but our call is for reconciliation. This reconciliation does not come because I am able to impose my ideas and we are all subject to them, but because I am able to understand those who think differently, and I tolerate them”.


Agreeing on Christian principles beyond political positions

In Spain’s capital, Madrid, another evangelical leader is among those who oppose the amnesty deal, because it “responds to the Prime Minister’s interest in staying in power at all costs, even denying himself and betraying the ideas he clearly expressed in the recent past”.

According to Pedro Tarquis, who leads the media group of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance, evangelical Cristians should be a model in “accepting the legality, however immoral or unjust it may seem to us” and then “participate peacefully in the movements that each one of us consider to be correct, always distancing ourselves from tension and demagogy”.

“The most important thing”, he adds, is “praying for God’s will to be done, knowing that it is He who removes and sets up kings, who gives to each one what is just, and whose peace transcends any situation, however difficult and tense it may be”.

The secretary general of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance, X. Manuel Suárez, approaches the crisis from another perspective. For him, the Constitution, which prohibits the self-determination of Spain’s regions, “is not the Bible”- in other words, it could be amended.

An amnesty could be helpful, says Suárez, who lives in the north-western region of Galicia, if “presented as an instrument of reconciliation”. But “the key element of analysis for evangelicals must be how the relationship between people and communities is constituted; if this is not resolved, the Constitution is of little use because the problem will be reopened again and again”.

Suárez laments that there is “often no distinction” between the proposals of Christians and those heard in the rest of society. “I believe that we, evangelicals, need to reflect deeply on two issues based on biblical principles: one is that of national identities and the other is that of mechanisms for conflict resolution, mediation, and the promotion of reconciliation. And in that reflection, we must first set aside our ideological pre-judgements”, he concludes.


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