A Plea Against Violence
- 6th April 2018
I have spent much of my career as a professional peacekeeper. This involves discussions with politicians of every ideology, and every sort of civil society group. I am always pleased to speak to everyone, no matter what their views. But I ask for two commitments from all the people with whom I speak. Firstly, I ask that we listen to one-another and treat each other with respect, even when we disagree. Secondly, interlocutors must pledge that they are not violent.
I never believed that Catalans would either pursue their cause with insults, or with threats and use of violence. Politeness and peace have always been defining characteristics of the progressive Catalan movement.
I was disappointed yesterday to receive a series of messages that were increasingly offensive and insulting, and sounding dangerous, attacking me personally. I do not know the people who wrote to me in this way. I do not believe that they know me. They appear to be associated with a movement called the “Committees for the Defence of the Referendum”. This describes itself as a hard-left Marxist organization. I do not object to socialist ideologies in principle.
But I do object to an organization whose members espouse violence. I asked the people threatening me whether they renounce violence. They refused to do this and instead they published defamatory materials about me on the internet.
People who do this will be subject to legal process, and I will ensure that the law is used to pursue people who attack me and threaten me personally on the internet.
But the broader point is this. It is dangerous for Catalans to associate themselves with people espousing violence. The Spanish government is arresting peaceful politicians. It is even easier for Madrid to arrest people associated with violence and online threats. I urge all people associated with this organization to abandon expressly all threats of violence or property damage, and to abandon all defamatory attacks upon well-meaning people using the internet. If people do not renounce these unlawful goals, and they continue to associate themselves with people with illegal ends, then they risk persecution by the Spanish state. This can only make the situation ever worse for peaceful people living in Catalonia.
Catalans must be alert to these dangers. Catalans must not let extremists capture their agenda. If they permit this to happen, they risk their liberty as well as their political cause. They also risk alienating all international sympathy that may remain for them.
Matthew Parish was elected as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2013 and has been named as one of the three hundred most influential people in Switzerland.