By Kaelanne Jordan
The Catholic Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) has strongly recommended that governments of the Caribbean be guided by two principles dear to the bishops in Catholic Social Teaching—the preferential option for the poor and marginalised and the principle of solidarity.
“As you act decisively to confront the virus and to provide aid and relief wherever it is needed, let us do all we can for our senior citizens, setting an example for our people to follow. In this time of pain for all, let us include in our care, the homeless, the refugees and migrants. If at all we must confine people to their homes, let us remember that some among us have no home,” AEC President Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica said in his message to the Governments of the Caribbean issued April 3.
In it, Bishop Malzaire said that in seeking to improve the regulatory frameworks to sustain the economies, “let us seek to protect the jobs of workers, even as we support the investments of our entrepreneurs. May we always seek to help those who will be left unemployed as this crisis unfolds.”
The message began with Bishop Malzaire greeting the brothers and sisters in the service of God’s Caribbean people as “fellow workers” in the midst of the spread of the coronavirus which is impacting the world and the vulnerable Caribbean region. He applauded the respective governments of the region for their proactive approach in managing and containing the spread of the virus and protecting the people especially those most at risk.
“We are grateful to the leaders of CARICOM which through the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is playing a vital role in testing for the virus,” Bishop Malzaire said.
Given the interconnectivity of global commerce and the financial markets, the recent underperforming stock markets, and fall in oil prices, the effects on the small economies are “inevitable” and can be “catastrophic”. The region’s heavy dependence on tourism and food importation, Bishop Malzaire said, means that the restricted travel advisories, the closure of borders, and the cancellation of international flights, hotel and cruise ship bookings, is certainly not good news to many.
He highlighted that the labour force is already facing a reduction in wages as a result of lay-offs and possible closure of some business. The human spirit of our Caribbean people will be severely tested by feelings of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and unrest, he said.
In this volatile situation, “we bishops stand with you, our governments, as we walk with our people at this time,” Bishop Malzaire asserted. He continued, “We hold you and your collaborators constantly in prayer as we ask the Lord of heaven and earth to give you the wisdom to lead and the courage to make the difficult decisions. It will not be easy to always seek the common good in the face of very limited resources.”
In so doing, Bishop Malzaire hoped that God continue to give them wisdom, understanding and courage to navigate the stormy seas of the impact of the COVID-19 on their people. These are days of dark clouds and ominous rumblings, he said, yet they are also days in which an old order is crumbling, and all are challenged to see and grasp what is emerging.
Bishop Malzaire hoped that, as all face the vagaries of an insecure international order, self-reliance and resilience about which there was much talk in recent years find deeper roots among all people. “As each day brings its challenges, please be assured of the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in the Caribbean,” the message ended.
Surrender your will to God’s will
– Archbishop on Palm Sunday