As the news of the rescue of Natalie Pollonais from the grasp of her kidnappers lit up the social and traditional media, the country breathed collectively in relief. The terror that had filled the minds of families at the thought of how easily one of their own could have been the target of evil minds was finally alleviated, if only for a while. Prayers of joy and thankful praise spread from blog to blog that a wife, a mother, a friend, a parishioner had been restored to her family and her community.
It is painfully ironic that, if preliminary reports are true, her ordeal resulted from her compliance with the instructions of men who spoke with the voice of authority of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks: “…who do you say I am?”. The voice that she heard was a legitimate one but it spoke with false intent, betraying the motto which they had sworn to honour: To Protect and Serve with Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dignity and Excellence (PRIDE).
The kidnappers’ voices were intended to mislead and ultimately, to destroy. Echoes of such voices fill our daily lives: the urgings to ignore well-founded values of respect for the dignity of the human person and respect for the natural environment which has been entrusted to Man.
They are the voices that persuade children to choose evil over good, under the guise that they are the voices of understanding and care. Sometimes they are even well-meaning voices, like Peter’s in the Gospel, that have to be rebuked, “Because the way (they) think is not God’s way but man’s.” A sincere search of our hearts may lead us to recognise this truth even in ourselves.
Conversely, there were voices that were raised in concern and prayer for the safety of a woman whom many did not know but who empathised with the anguish of the family. Their voices were a testament to their belief that Almighty God listens to His people when they call to Him in faith.
They were also a testament to the rejection by ordinary, decent people of injustice and cruelty and of lives governed by fear and trembling. We must take comfort and strength from the knowledge that despite the crime that stalks the country, people of good heart and mind have the power to staunch the flow and to transform our situation that has seemed to be increasingly chaotic and hopeless.
Similarly, the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith has stated that it was the combined, “clinical” efforts of several arms of the Protective Services that resulted in the safe “extraction” of the victim.
This belies the commonly held perception that ineptitude and corruption at all levels of the Police Service and in State organisations spell the end to decency and optimism in our land. There is no doubt that the country is cursed with such officers and public servants but the success of this operation depended upon the intelligence, dedication and selfless service of the team who gave the country a reason to hope.
Our efforts must complement theirs if we are to ensure that all our people can enjoy the voices that speak safety and peace of mind as we go about the ordinary course of our lives.