By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“…the virtuous finds shelter in his integrity…Virtue makes a nation great; by sin whole races are disgraced.”
(Proverbs 14:32, 34)
Today, January 26, we celebrate the first Sunday of the Word of God, established by Pope Francis last year by his Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio, Aperuit illis. The title is taken from the opening words of St Luke’s Gospel which describes how the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples, and how “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). If we read extracts from our scriptures daily, this should set us on fire to LIVE the Word of God. We can only build a virtuous nation if we ourselves subscribe to and live by Catholic virtues.
My friend was robbed at gunpoint on her way home recently. I went to her home to give her some moral support. By that time, she had reported the matter to the police.
In between floods of tears she said: “You know, Leela, we all know that our country is bogged down by crime, but until we are personally affected, we just hear about it and move on with our lives. We seem to have become numb to runaway crime.”
“No! No! No! This can never happen in our beloved country,” I responded. “There are too many good people working and praying for peace and non-violence in T&T for the criminal element to numb our senses!”
But I must admit, there is a kind of frustration building up in the minds and hearts of our people. Pastor Clive Dottin’s post on Facebook on Thursday, January 16 is indicative of this frustration.
After sending a message “to the unrepentant, barbaric killers in this society”, he sent “a word to our leaders: priests, parents, politicians, police officers, prison officers, psychologists”.
He said: “A lawless and indisciplined nation cannot fight crime. A word to the citizens: Righteousness still exalts a nation. Time to turn to God and reestablish the family altar. Time is running out for our nation. Time to stop idolizing indecency, insanity and indiscipline.”
Journalist Tony Fraser was among those who responded. Inter alia, he said: “…there is deep meaning to be derived from your post.”
After the “shoot-out” in Port of Spain leaving two dead and one injured, Port of Spain Mayor, Joel Martinez described the situation as a “total breakdown in our society”. This was the second fatal shooting in the capital city in 16 days.
And we move from the North to the South where, as you know, one doctor died and another was seriously injured after they were kidnapped by gunmen, who later crashed along the Solomon Hochoy Highway in San Fernando. One of the suspects died in hospital.
On January 6, we read about the triple murder in Arima, East Trinidad. On January 16, there was another triple murder in Arima: three teenagers,15, 16 and 19 were shot and killed.
I do not think there is any part of T&T that is safe from those who seem to have lost their moral compass or perhaps no-one ever nurtured/guided them to find their moral compass.
The US National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) has an interesting article entitled: ‘Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom’. (https://nccs.net/blogs/articles/only-a-virtuous-people-are-capable-of-freedom). The NCCS states: “Public virtue is a very special quality of human maturity in character and service closely akin to the Golden Rule. It is agreeing to forego some personal advantage for the betterment of one’s neighbour and society…
“The public virtue necessary for freedom cannot be legislated. It must come freely from the hearts of people who have a conviction that each individual is created equal to all others and that he has the same unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“It must come as a result of people wanting to fulfill the commandments to love God and to love their fellow men and to not be arbitrary in their treatment of others.
“Some do-gooders in our day think that laws can be passed to force people to be kind to others or not to discriminate against people based on some distinguishing feature. This kind of force only invites more and more laws, more legal entanglements, and more hard feelings between individuals, groups, and nations.
“The purveyors of this thinking give no place for the influence of morality and religion which the Founders felt was the only true basis for lasting virtue. Its basis is free will, not force….
“Thomas Jefferson counselled, ‘Virtue is not hereditary.’ Virtue has to be earned and it has to be learned. Neither is virtue a permanent quality in human nature. It has to be cultivated continually and exercised from hour to hour and from day to day. The Founders looked to the home, the school, and the churches to fuel the fires of virtue from generation to generation.”
In our multifaith society, it’s time for all faith communities and those who follow no faith to unite. We have a duty to save our nation. Reflect on the virtues that should underpin our lives.
Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest things right and doing all for love.
St Thérèse of Lisieux
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee