“We have to do everything we can to guard against every loss of life, regardless of who the person is, regardless of their station of life, regardless of whether they good or they bad. Every loss of life is a tragedy.” These were the words of Archbishop Jason Gordon’s homily during today’s Mass, July 1, at the Archbishop’s Chapel.
He segued into a discussion of the events of June 30, when the city of Port of Spain and several parts of north Trinidad were the sites of protests, and exchange of gunshots between protesters and police. The disturbances were sparked by the June 27 police shooting of Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton in Morvant.
Using the First Reading, Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12, as principal text , he explored the important theme of justice. The prophet Amos, he said, was the fiercest proclaimer of justice—the first in biblical tradition—and the reading could not be disassociated from the protests the day before.
“Amos is putting before the people an understanding of religion, that we don’t hear very often and certainly not very often in Trinidad and Tobago.” The feasts, festivities, liturgies, and prayer, are dependent on living right and doing what is good. That connection between prayer and life is important because many times there is a separation between the two and “we think sometimes how we pray could make up for how we live, that we could treat people badly, and we could pray and it is okay.”
Amos also introduced the notion of the ‘remnant’, that small group of people, who remain faithful to God, even in the midst of a large number of people who no longer understand the demands of God. It is for the sake of the remnant that God acted in history.
The question, he said, that Amos is asking right now is on the role of the Catholic, the disciple of Jesus, in a society like Trinidad and Tobago. He described the city of which Amos speaks as a city of corruption, where the scales of measure differed between purchasing and selling, and thus the gain was maximised for sellers and injustice meted out to the other person. Unless society was willing to look hard and see where justice really is, then that society will not be able to claim that they are the people of God.
The Archbishop issued a warning: when we become desensitised by the loss of human life, it is easy to be desensitised across the board. “When every murder happens, ‘well it’s a next one of them dead’.” A mental difference is made between, “when it happen to them, and when it happen to us”. Every loss of life, he emphasised, is a tragedy, regardless of who the person is, their station of life, whether they were good or bad.
“Sometimes I hear people talking about people in this country as less than human beings. That is the royal road into very deep destruction.” However, organising protests to destabilise a nation can never be taken lightly. It can neither be accepted nor tolerated, especially in a time when emotions are as high as at present because people do not have what they need and have been shut in for three months. There is, he said, a lot of anger: “we have been enclosed in our homes for so long, lots of people haven’t been able to work….while some neighbour child could get to school because they have a digital device, and WIFI , and I have no digital device and no WIFI, my child not going to school. What does that do to a parent?”
The deeper challenge to be faced is the country’s complacency, for decades, towards the underdevelopment of the black community. . Archbishop Gordon said, “That’s an injustice in our country that is so fundamental, that it will require a whole nation understanding, that we all have to pay a price for the development of our ghetto communities.” Development must occur in each community, so that each citizen of the country has a chance to live with dignity and to flourish, “because the flourishing of all, is the safety of all.” When all cannot flourish, the safety of all is in jeopardy. Justice, he continued, is a delicate balance people have to understand. This what Amos is speaking to in his society.
“What we have seen yesterday in our country is frightening…Our reaction as Christians is to search out the mind of God. We have to cry out against every life that has been lost, whoever takes the life, We have to hold people who take life responsible, regardless of who they are. Unless that happens we will not build justice.”