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14 / 05 / 2004
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: «People who forget will make the same mistakes again»

The 141 Questions of the Forum (5): “Forgive And forget? Forgive and not forget? Neither forgive nor forget?” Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, 1980 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, expressed his agreement with forgiving but never with forgetting. Esquivel defined the Forum as “a very worthwhile place for reflection and debate”.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, explained that to be able to forgive killers, torturers and those who cause tragedy and poverty “there must be steps towards repentance, the right to truth and justice, to the repair of the damage caused”. However, he expressed his opposition to holding on to hatred “because it leads us to the destruction of our very selves”. For Esquivel it is necessary to keep the doors open to reconciliation, but he was firm about the obligation to remember and keep the memory alive in order to avoid making the same mistakes and to understand the present times.

In his speech in the debate 141 Questions, Pérez Esquivel said the Forum was a very worthwhile place for reflection and debate. He emphasized that the final review and conclusions of this great event will depend to a large extent on the public, “on how they may let the experience spill over into their daily lives”.

In the Haima space, audience participation made possible a continuous open debate, in which there was much discussion about the UN and the role it plays on the world stage. After pointing out that the first objective of the United Nations is to preserve world peace, Pérez Esquivel demonstrated that it is necessary to reform and democratize this organization in order to, amongst other things, avoid actions of some member countries going unpunished: “We must strengthen the UN so that it can take on the role for which it is intended”, he concluded.

In response to questions about the serious Iraq situation, Esquivel denounced the systematic violations of human rights and made an appeal for “indignation”, since torture is committed under the flag of countries and governments that call themselves democratic.

As a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, one of the participants in the debate asked him about “some of his fellow prizewinners”. Esquivel pointed out the strong collaboration he maintains with some of them, but he said that, for example, Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary-of-State, was not involved: “I don´t keep in touch with him”.

Also president of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ), coordinating organization for the defense of human rights in Latin America, he reminded the audience that every day more than 35,000 children in the world die from hunger. Faced with realities like this, he supported the active role of the people in resolving situations of such clear and manifest injustice. Concerning the tragedies that children suffer, Esquivel finished his speech by explaining his dream: “That all the children may smile at life”.