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Building an inclusive society

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

“Violence is not the cure for our broken world”—Pope Francis

Let’s pray for members of the recently appointed committee that is leading the Community Recovery Programme.  I am sure they will adopt a multifaceted approach to the work in hand. There is no quick fix in building an inclusive society. For decades all of us have failed to address the deep-seated structural problems that exist.

Some social media posts highlight the effects of stigmatisation and marginalisation experienced by those living in certain communities in T&T.

Our baptism must lead us to build right relationships because, as Christ said to His disciples in today’s gospel (Mt 13:1–23): “…the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed” to us. “Happy are” our “eyes because they see”, our “ears because they hear!”.

Do we SEE-JUDGE-ACT as though we received the seed in rich soil? Heaven forbid that the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in T&T: “You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me” (Mt 13:15).

If we align our hearts with the heart of God, we will “understand” that there are many variables that can lead to social unrest. Let’s stop the ‘ole talk’ and ‘blame game’ and examine the social, political, economic, and environmental causes that have led us to where we are today.

When society respects the dignity of each person, we will create conditions so that ALL can flourish. When I posted this latter statement on Facebook, a learned person responded saying: “There is a way. Do we have the courage, heart, and humility to listen?”.

Someone posted the following on social media: “Why dem youth an’ dem who protesting doh take advantage of the life-skills programmes available? Everybody have access to them…”

It was Caroline Belden who said in her series “Equity vs Equality: The Inclusion Solution—What does access really mean: “Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; Equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it.”

 

Sandbags on their legs

If we truly have an inclusive vision for taking T&T forward, we will recognise that authentic integral human development is not about just offering a few courses for those on the margins of our society.

Our Church tells us that “whatever is opposed to life…whatever insults human dignity…all these things…are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator” (#27, Gaudium et Spes).

If we reject the throwaway culture to which Pope Francis refers, we will understand the truth in the following profound statement by Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean institutional economist, specialising in development economics. Currently he is a reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge: “Equality of opportunity is not enough. Unless we create an environment where everyone is guaranteed some minimum capabilities through some guarantee of minimum income, education, and healthcare, we cannot say that we have fair competition. When some people have to run a 100-metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.”

Building a just society requires us to ensure that the nation’s resources are used to provide citizens with what is necessary to have a decent quality of life e.g. water, food, clothing, housing, appropriate health care, electricity, education, decent roads, employment. Authentic integral human development is about the whole person and every person.

Unless we respect the dignity of every person; unless we “believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person” (US Bishops), we will fail to sow seeds of hope, love, and peace.

I urge T&T to awaken and do what is right by ALL our citizens, because it is the right thing to do.

We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.

— St Peter Claver SJ

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee

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