The threat posed by the weather system, Tropical Storm turned Hurricane Beryl, was met with trepidation by our neighbours from Dominica, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico.
Dominica and Puerto Rico, like Barbuda and many other small islands in the Caribbean chain, have not yet recovered from the ravages of last year’s hurricanes Irma and Maria.
According to correspondents from some regional weather sites, many damaged homes in Dominica remain, at best, only partly repaired with their tarpaulin ‘blue roofs’ as their fragile and wholly inadequate protection from even mild storms. Damaged shelters have not been restored and new shelters have not been built.
In Puerto Rico, workers are racing against time to complete the rebuilding of the island’s power grid ten months after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. Destroyed and damaged homes are still a reality for many residents. Barbuda lost 95 per cent of its buildings, including houses and public structures and was left virtually uninhabitable.
Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:7–13) presents us with the challenge to go out “in pairs” to take the message of Christ to the world. We are not called upon merely to speak words but to make the message of salvation tangible for the benefit of our hearers and so bring them closer to the Lord.
We are, in short, called upon to create the Kingdom of God on earth ourselves by using our many talents collaboratively to bring relief from suffering, to restore justice and dignity to our fellow man and to offer real comfort, consolation and hope to all, including the most afflicted and the most vulnerable.
Regionally, Caribbean people must make it imperative that buildings be designed and constructed to withstand hurricanes which seem to be increasing in ferocity and frequency.
Thought must be given to afford the poor and the disadvantaged the opportunity to have houses that will not collapse at the first ill wind that blows their way. The society must “cast out (the) many devils” of heartless profit and uncaring aggrandisement if it comes at the expense of the lives of those whom we are called upon to anoint with the oil of compassion and active concern.
Power structures and water supply systems must be re-engineered to ensure that basic amenities remain available to island communities that face nature’s seasonal wrath.
In addition, all territories have to enforce laws regarding the pollution and obstruction of waterways and the illegal altering of the landscape. Environmental awareness of the importance of trees and shrubs and of protective coral reefs must be introduced and reinforced at every level of society.
Effective island-wide alarm systems, emergency shelters and an easily accessible supply of drinking water and of basic foodstuffs should be the norm from Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago.
We have been given the ‘staff’ of intelligence, ingenuity and energy which we can and must use to benefit our neighbours and ourselves. May we recognise this as we deal with the physical and social storms that will certainly overwhelm us should we forget that it is the Lord Himself who equips us with the wherewithal to be His presence in our islands and in the wider world.