By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
I watched the video clip on Facebook in which six girls in school uniform at a school in north Trinidad were smoking what has been described as ‘spliffs’. The Minister of Education has asked for a report and the matter has been referred to the police.
The incident should lead us to reflect on issues relating to home/school/community links. This is a wake-up call for all our families and schools to be alert to this danger.
The government is currently holding consultations on the issue of the decriminalisation of cannabis in T&T. Our AG has said that legislation on this issue will be brought to Parliament in the first half of 2019. Remember Archbishop Jason Gordon’s view on this issue. See his column in Catholic News of September 30, 2018: https://catholicnewstt.com/index.php/2018/10/06/decriminalise-not-legalise/ .
It is worth noting the words of the philosopher, Rudolph Steiner who said: “In raising children, we need to continuously keep in mind how we can best create the most favorable environment for their imitative behaviour. Everything done in the past regarding imitation must become more and more conscious and more and more consciously connected with the future.”
It is clear that many of our children in T&T do not have a favourable environment for their imitative behaviour. Promoting and protecting our children/family life is a justice issue.
Our families today face many challenges, and, as the Body of Christ in this world, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and ignore the many social ills that impact adversely on family life.
Our Catechism tells us that: “The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family” (#2209, CCC).
The 1983 Catholic Charter of the Rights of the Family defines family as “a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society” (#229, Compendium ).
It is in the family that our young people first learn moral and spiritual values and virtues, which give meaning to their lives. St Pope John Paul II reminded us years ago that: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family”.
He referred to the family as “a society in its own original right”, and the “first and vital cell of society”. It is in the family that we will develop a culture of life; a spirit of nation-building.
And see his apostolic exhortation called: The Christian Family in the Modern World (Familiaris Consortio, 1981). In it, he said: “…the essence and the role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has as its mission to guard, reveal and communicate love.” When last did you hug your loved ones in your family and tell them that you love them?
I attended the inaugural two-day national Symposium on the Family— held at The UWI in June 2018 on the theme: Supporting Families as the Bedrock of our Society. It was organised by The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. The Partner Host was the Division of Gender and Child Affairs, Office of the Prime Minister.
It incorporated “the official launch of a National Values, Attitudes and Behaviours Campaign for Trinidad and Tobago, which is key to fostering family life and driving sustainable social development.”
The challenge is to move from policy to implementation/evaluation and for institutions such as the Children’s Authority to be fully staffed to deal with the matters before it.
If we are to realise the vision of building strong families and a strong nation, we should not simply look to government for solutions to our social ills. We must also look to our communities for role models and mentors to encourage, challenge and enthuse those who are at risk.
John Rohn’s words are instructive: “Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing.”
We need to take stock of where family life is and where it’s going. Families matter. Will we stand up for the family and work to save our families? Investing in families is investing in society as a whole. Therefore, let’s invest in our families and build a society in which all families can flourish.