Archbishop Jason Gordon is rebutting the public’s perception that the Church is doing “more” for refugees and migrants than poor and marginalised Trinbagonians.
Speaking during Catholic Media Services Limited’s (CAMSEL) Ask the Ask Archbishop live chat last Monday, the Archbishop emphatically declared “that’s not true”.
He highlighted that the local Church gives “incredible” service daily to those on the margins via its soup kitchens, orphanages, hostels, caring centres, hospices, drug rehabilitation centres, medical clinics and schools. “…So you can’t say we are giving more to the migrants. But the migrants are a crisis…” he said.
The Archbishop gave the scenario of a man “dropping down in your face” and another starving. “You have to attend…This is triage. This is a hospital. Pope Francis says the Church is a field hospital. Somebody comes in this triage, you stop the bleeding, you control the blood pressure…and then you start to deal with the bigger picture again.”
Continuing the discourse, Archbishop Gordon said he was “shocked” by the xenophobia that emerged. To this end, host Jodel Lutchman questioned “How do we as Church get people to change their dispositions towards migrants on the whole?”
The Archbishop observed that xenophobia comes from fear and fear comes from a perception of society. “There’s an underlying sense here that we all get an opportunity to eat from one trough and if we get more people to eat from the same trough that means I going to get less food. And that is the real fear. We already have poor people here. Why bring in more people….”
Archbishop Gordon said the real question is whether xenophobia is the best response to the fear. “It is a legitimate fear. I have said from day one the government has to control the border because we can’t let any number of people in but everyone that comes here has to be treated with dignity and respect. So it’s a paradoxical situation….”
Archbishop Gordon maintained that Venezuelans coming to T&T is not “unusual”. He gave the example of a “wash” of Venezuelans in the early 1800s and 1990s due to civil unrest in the country. He added that there are many Trinbagonians whose parents and grandparents are Venezuelans and have contributed “incredibly” to the building up of T&T.
On the issue of potential marriages of convenience, the Archbishop said that Trinidadians have done marriages of convenience for “years”. “It’s using something sacred towards something secular. It’s wrong. There’s no other way to say it,” he affirmed.
Ultimately, Archbishop Gordon believed there will be “genuine” families that will emerge between Venezuelans and Trinbagonians. The complaints, he said, of local men “chasing” Venezuelan women is a “transference” of our society: “Those men themselves don’t have ethical ground to stand on otherwise they won’t be doing the foolishness they’re doing.”