Msgr. Tomáš Halík delivered the 2015 Annual Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture on October 20, 2015, at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. The lecture was titled “Long Period of Healing” and discussed the vital role of religion in the transition from Communism to Democracy. Msgr. Halik pointed out that simply being liberated from Communism did not necessarily make people “free.” The Communist regime had suppressed individual initiative and responsibility and had instead created a culture of “homo sovieticus“. To successfully transition to democracy, this mentality needed to be overcome. Economic transformation alone was insufficient and often led to “inverted Marxism,” as Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted. Therefore, a long period of healing was required.
After the fall of a totalitarian regime, society is left disoriented, with individuals either seeking revenge or ignoring the injustices they have experienced. To move forward, a process of reconciliation is crucial. This process is moral and cultural, and Christian churches and faith-based organizations must play a role in forgiveness and reconciliation. The truth must be told; moral renewal is essential to establish a thriving “moral biosphere” for democracy. In Czechoslovakia after 1989, many Communists simply migrated to capitalism and used their wealth to influence the political process. To prevent this, it is necessary to establish a culture of forgiveness and reconciliation.