Why talk about the Righteous?
Moral behaviour, not preaching can convince people.
How beautiful is the tale of honey told by Pinar Selek. To convince a boy not to eat only honey and thus die of hunger, his tracher decides not to eat honey for weeks-This is the very idea of Baruch Spinoza, according to whom virtuous people with their deeds can create a long chain of emulation.
And this is also what Hannah Arendt said, when she noticed that some deeds of very few people on the public scene, although not changing the course of events, may create a new beginning within the Polis.
At the beginning they seem mad, they pay a very heavy price, but thethey do miracles. They are the human beings that save their fellow human beìngs, and thus they are God to them. They were the bunch of demonstrators on the Red Square in 1968, or the women gathering in Plaza de Mayo in Argentina to ask for the whereabouts of their missing children. They are the Righteous of our time.
Why talk about the Righteous of dialogue and in our time?
Because evil in the world always resurfaces, sometimes in the form of a kind of honey that deceives people, it is evil trying to show itself as good, as the late Tvetan Todorov had understood.
Hencethe false honey is the one that suggests to build walls, erect barriers at the borders, close oneself in the ghettoes of one’s belonging to improve society. The idea to deny space tosharing and contamination, defending one’s own courtyard. The slogan of Trump, American First. These are today’s challenges.
The culture of enemy and hatred. The culture of selfies, a nice technological invention, but used to the wrong purpose of looking at ourselves and not the other’s face, losing the mystery of the others. The entrenchment into one’s own opinions that one witnesses in the social networks, used to affirm we are right and the others are wrong.
The culture of contempt in politics. The return of the clash between us and them, that does so much harm to the world. And the idea that the others are barbarians and it is legitimate to use any means against them.
The damage this culture has inflicted is tremendous. Sick words have become violence and the actual annihilation of other human beings.
Terrorism, with its idea of destruction for the purpose of destruction. There is no difference between Anders Breivik and the Islamist terrorists to this extent.
There is nationalism in Eastern Europe. There are populists who want to return to the small states, forgetting that they led to the suicide of Europe during the two world wars.
And then states or pseudostates like Syria and Daesh, with true cases of genocide unfolding surrounded by the overall world’s indifference. Despite Auschwitz and the UN Conventions, there is no international policy for genocide prevention-
Who are then the Righteous of our time?
People like Hamadi Abdesslem and Lassana Bathily who not only saved human lives but also became testimionials against terrorism in the Muslim and Arab world. They have launched this extraordinary message: if you kill in the name of God, you kill God.
They are the best examples in the struggle against the foreign fighters and Isis ideology.
They are the people like Pinar Selek and Raif Badawi, from the two key countries of the Middle East, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. They defend human plurality and are against o homogenizing thought, the one man on power.
They are the people who save migrants at sea, like Christopher and Regina with their Moas, the Eritrean Alganesh Fessaha, the people we honoured on 8 March in Neve Shalom and we will honour on 22 March in Tunisia.
We talk about the Righteous of dialogue to defend ethics and also a vision of politics exempt from the trap presented by the culture of clash.
As Eetty Hillesum, Mandela in South Africa, Antoine Leiris and the Solesin family in Paris, we shall not fight hatred with new seeds of hatred. Falling into this trap would unleash the war of everybody against everybody.
We must sow seeds of nonviolence, dialogue and persuasion.
I would like to remind of Mandela’s tale about the two ways to fight evil. The wind and the sun were fighting to convince a man to put off his trench. Wind led the man to try to wear on more. The sun instead warmed him up sweetly which made the man decide to put off his mantle. The sun had warmed him up with love.
Of course goodness is not enough to achieve results. Also Etty Hillesum in her last letters had wished the allied would bomb the concentration camp.
But I would like to remember the spirit of Hrant Dink in Turkey, as remembered by Pinar Selek. He said against the Turks who hated him we should practice a tactical pragmatism. Dialogue is our pragmatism.