By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
Over the past few weeks, before and after our General Election on August 10, it has been sad to note on social media, in particular, racist vitriol being spewed by so many people—mainly from the two major ethnic communities that reside in our beloved country.
I was sad to note a couple of posts by Catholics stating that the Church has failed the people. I urge you to read and reflect on today’s gospel: Matthew 16:13–20 – Peter’s profession of faith.
Pope Francis reminds us that:
“…as a disciple, each one of us can also say (as Peter did) ‘Yes, Jesus is the Christ’.
So, it’s the whole church, every disciple, who responds to this question by saying to Jesus, ‘You are the Christ’. That’s the rock on which the church is built, the rock of the faith of all of us. It’s not just Peter and his faith that is the rock on which the church is built…
And so we, who are the church, are the rock foundation. Our faith is a rock foundation of the community of disciples of Jesus. And of course, that’s for each of us a blessing, a grace that God has enabled us to have this faith. It’s a gift to be able to say about Jesus, who was fully human, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” But when we do make that pronunciation of faith and claim then our discipleship, we are part of this church of community of disciples throughout the whole world on who the church depends as the rock.
The church is built on us as the rock, and of course, I know we all are blessed because of this, but also it presents to us a very real challenge as disciples of Jesus to follow him, to accept his teachings, to live according to his way…if we’re really going to be that rock of faith that is the foundation of the whole church, we must try to let ourselves be changed in our thinking. ”
If the Church is failing, then WE are failing. We cannot respond to hatred with hatred. We will “bring about the transformation of our world into the reign of God only through the transforming power of love” (Pope Francis). Our love will only be evident if we open our hearts/minds to become who we are—children of God/disciples of Christ. It was Albert Camus who said: “Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.”
Today the world observes International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.
The UN states: “For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history.”
Between 1.2–2.4 million Africans died aboard ships between the 16th and 19th centuries when they were transported to various parts of the world to work as slaves. There can be no moral justification for slavery. We are all diminished by this crime against humanity.
We need to pray for healing and for God’s mercy for the role of Christians, including the Catholic Church, in the transatlantic slave trade. CNN reminds us that Frederick Douglass wrote in his book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) that: “There is a chasm between Christianity proper and the ‘slave-holding religion of this land.’ One is ‘good, pure and holy,’ the other corrupt and wicked…’.”
In 1985, Pope St John Paul II apologised to Africans for the involvement of Christians in the slave trade: “…we ask pardon from our African brothers and sisters who suffered so much because of the slave trade…”
On July 10, 2015, during a speech in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Pope Francis apologised and asked for forgiveness for the “‘grave sins’ committed by the Church during the colonial era”.
On February 9, 2006, at the Anglican Church’s general synod in London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, issued an apology “for the Church’s complicity in sustaining—and profiting hugely—from the trade”.
The Vatican II Document, Gaudium et Spes, reminds us that “whatever is opposed to life itself…all these things are infamies indeed”.
Let us honour the memory and the indomitable human spirit of the millions of victims of transatlantic slavery and be true advocates for justice as we seek to eradicate modern-day slavery.
And let us work to eliminate racism in T&T/the world.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
— St Teresa of Calcutta
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee