Here are some questions sent to me during the approach of my 47th birthday (October 10, 2017.) Enjoy.
Do you believe in God?
I believe in reason and science, because they allow humanity to advance, to discover new frontiers and even to survive. After all these years inside my own being, I don’t think my idea of a God is similar to that idea presented by many religions. However, I respect very much any possible conception of a God, included the position of many who deny the existence of a Creator God upon physics or reason. I consider that the human mind and the size of the universe, as well as the mysteries of the time-space dimension, make us impossible to decide or to describe what is God, how this God could be and which purposes he could have and, at the same time, it is also impossible to my own perspectives to conclude in a complete denial of his existence. I coincide definitively with the rejection by many of the cartoon presented by most religions of what would be God. Such cartoon is full of ancient legends that are mostly used by politicians and powers to manipulate the human mind throughout sects and the fear for the unknown and for the death.
Therefore, what is God for you?
If I answer to you what is God, any answer will be the projection of my own mind, subconscious, ideals and experiences. I don’t know what is God, where he could be and which purposes he could have. Our mission as humans is to keep discovering, studying the entire universe from our limits and be open to discover new things and the evidences of great mysteries. In that case, we are walking towards God, if we call in that way the principles of the universe, of the life and of the humans. As much as we work on it, we approach the beginning, the big bang, the genesis and it could be God.
So do you rejects religions?
I do not reject religions as a whole. Many people think that religions are condemned to disappear as much as we discover new things and invent technologies. But religions are not just political systems with hierarchies and games of power. Religions mean deeply spirituality, the hunger of the human person to meditate, to discover the mission of their own life on the universe, the deep feelings of love, compassion, fraternity… this is religion for me. Any religion on the face of the Earth has this kind of wisdom and I think this important.
Do you believe in the future of humanity?
Yes, I think humanity has future and hope. If we have survived for more than 6 million years on the face of the Earth and we have reached to the point of high evolution such as self conscious, we will find the ways to survive even the destruction of the same Solar System. The dinosaurs reigned on Earth for millions of years more than what we have been here. But they did not become conscious. We got that special feature and we need to get even more conscious. We will have to save the Earth first from our own hunger and ambitions, then from the natural astronomical cycles that could put in danger the survival of the human species.
What are the best moments of your life in 47 years?
That’s an easy question but it has a long answer. I have too many best moments in my life for almost 5 decades already. I have to write a book and I think I have to do so before I depart from Planet Earth.
Maybe let us not talk about particular moments, but chapters. One of these chapters was my adolescence, growing as a boy in the Medellín – Colombia’s poor barrios, the communes, during a very difficult time for the city, with the Medellín Cartel of Drugs threatening the entire Colombian State, but in particular the lives of boys like me. I grew in a very dangerous barrio, I saw many of my school companions killed, I was almost a victim of guns by several times… but I survived. And it was not so simple like that: I did not survive because I was hidden under the bed or running from the violence. I survived because I joint the boy scouts, the parish youth group, the drama company and I loved books and I liked to study. These were my shields and I think it has been my best moment, my best chapter. I walked through the streets of my barrio to attend meetings with those activities, knowing that I could pass through a shooting. I was stopped several times by the police searching in me a possible sicario. I survived and I thanks those adults who were at my side, helping that Medellín boy to survive.
After, when I entered the Salesian Congregation, as a seminarian, I walked the streets of other Medellin poor barrios looking for boys, saving boys from violence. I created 4 boy scouts groups in the middle of violent urban areas. Most of the kids that joint my groups survived too.
The other big chapter of my life was my arrival to Asia, the land of my dreams. I see that many have American dreams. I have Asian dreams. Since I was a kid, I dreamed with China, with Bruce Lee, with Asian religions and wisdom. I read Krishnamurti, Gandhi, Herman Hess, Taoism, Buddhism. To realize this dream has been a great moment for me. I always think that a poor boy from a Medellín’s commune came here, so far, to the other side of the world.
What do you think about Colombia?
It is my country and I feel proud of it. But I do not follow blind nationalism. I recognize first that we have much to do in order to have the country we dream. There is a lot of inequality that is historical. It is nothing new. It comes from an older social order around a social pyramid, an inheritance from the old colonial system. This social order is racists and discriminatory and it has been in power for decades. This is the root of violence and eternal conflicts, drug dealers, sicarios, a paramilitary culture and a very arrogant order of political and social corruption. Just the fact that Colombia is one of the biggest population ejectors towards countries such as United States, Canada, Spain and other South American countries, is an evidence of a deep social problem. Just to see the tragedy of farmers fleeing from their own lands due to warlords, it is a shame. Just to see too many children wandering the Colombian streets – the gamines, – it is a pain for us.
I think my country needs a revolution. But I am not talking of a communist revolution or an armed revolution. They tried it already and they created only pain in our history and more terror. I mean, we need a revolution of the institutions and the democratic system, but also a social revolution where education would be the key. A cleaning of the institutions in order to destroy the culture of corruption. A revolution in the way we see things, being more originals, not following foreign tendencies, but creating our own nation. A revolution where we recognize that we are a pluricultural country, a country of countries.
Finally, talking about Colombia, I think that the best of the country is, doubtless, its people. A very brave, kind and simple people that have survived too many disasters and still willing to smile, willing to dream, willing to fight for a best future. I think that Colombians are worthy of a best country and I keep hope on it.
Would you return to Colombia?
I feel I am working for my own country where I am here, in Asia, dedicated to education, supporting all these children and youth to get opportunities in life. Most of them, after knowing me, have a good idea of Colombia. I would return to Colombia if there is a big opportunity to replicate this mission with the most unprivileged Colombian children and youth. I think in the children of youth of so many displaced by violence, those who were constricted to join armed groups, those who live in very poor areas without a future, the children of the poor communes, the Colombian ethnic minorities that suffer discrimination and lack of opportunities like the Afro-Colombians and indigenous. I am always ready. But at the same time I have a big compromise with the Cambodian children and youth.
What have been the main difficulties in your life?
As any human being, I have passed for many difficulties. I feel grateful that I am a survival of too many situations during different periods of my life. But I think the most difficult part of my life – and it is something from ever, – has been the moments in where I am a target of bullying by companions. When I was a boy I was something similar to what is called a nerd: a boy who loves to read, who knows about astronomy, about literature… my conversations with my friends were always around serious things, beside football (and I was a good player) and other things proper of kids. But I was also the target of envies, jealousies and plans to put me obstacles. This situation has been replicated in every step of my life, even if I tried to avoid it. I am a very sympathetic person, I smile, I am worry for others, but there is always someone that thinks that it is better to make my life difficult. Among this situation, the worst part has been during my life as a seminarian. Normally you think that joining a religious congregation means to join a life of love, fraternity and charity – and it is like that in a bigger extend. However, reality is that the life in a seminar means also a game of powers and hypocrisy. I never have been a hypocritical or I never have put as a goal of my life to top in positions through political (and corrupt actions.) It brings me always enemies that are afraid of me. During my life as a seminarian, I got different enemies in this sense and they tried to make me a difficult life. I think I will express it in my writing in the coming years. After the seminary, the situation keeps the same and I always get enemies or opponents that feel that I could be an obstacle for their ambitions. In 2009 and 2015 I got two big attempts to destroy my reputation under the dedicated obsession of two persons, profiting my ingenuity and showing always as they were friends, when reality said they were definitively enemies. But I admire something: my commitment even these problems and an interior force, the mystery of life, at my side. I am not worthy of nothing. I think if I have been preserved or saved, it is because the good I do to the children and youth in this mission. Not for another thing.
Do you feel proud of what?
I feel proud of many things. I feel proud of Colombia, as I said, after many difficulties, we still willing to dream a future. I feel proud of my students. When I see a boy or a girl who came to me being totally poor and now she or he is working in a company, like a great guy, I feel proud. I feel proud of Don Bosco and what he represents.
In 2015 I did my DNA test and now I feel proud that I am the son of three races: Native American, European and West African. As probably happens to many that made the test, it took me by surprise to know unexpected things like I am a Native American but from North America and not from South America. I am also European, but not only from Spain – that would be the logic assumption, but I have also British and Scandinavian ancestry. But the most interesting is that I have also some Chinese ancestry and, maybe the best part (from my point of view), Jew ancestry (Sephardi mostly and a part of Ashkenazim.) This maybe very proud because I have the evidence of being a real citizen of the world. I am near to all the peoples of the Earth. It makes me deeply proud.
(To be continued….)