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Fr Martin Sirju and the Easter Chip Chip

By Fr Martin Sirju

I got an Easter gift this year—chip chip. For those who do not know what it is, it is a kind of seafood—a soft living jelly in a seashell composed of two parts. We haven’t seen these for many years in that amount on the seashore of Bonasse Village, Cedros, the unofficial capital of the Cedros peninsula.

Until recently, Cedros contained a customs and immigration point for many visiting ‘Venes’ and locals. The police station is still there as well as the village health centre, supermarket, hardwares, a LEND centre, over-the-counter drug store, a Chinese restaurant, and a few other food joints, and of course, numerous bars. It’s still a fishing village after all.

Chip chip dramatically reduced in the Gulf shores for a long time. One would still find some on the beaches off the southern coast of Cedros – Galfar and Beaulieu.

Even the conchs too have reappeared in large numbers providing free seafood for the villagers. These remained in the Bonasse waters, but the chip chip was harder to find.

It is very likely all this was due to pollution in the Gulf of Paria. Oil and natural gas brought us great wealth but at what cost? At the time of the feisty arguments over aluminum smelter or no aluminum smelter several years ago, it was revealed that Trinidad was responsible for a large cloud of pollution heading towards Venezuela originating from industrialisation on our west coast.

The price of progress is often the health of swathes of the population. I am not aware of medical studies done on the Point Fortin and Pointe-a-Pierre refineries, Point Lisas Industrial Complex and associated industries and their impact on the health of surrounding citizens.

The fallout of pollution in the Gulf most likely contributed to the demise of the chip chip and suddenly, the sandy floor of the Granville and Bonasse beaches came quite muddy, the deeper you ventured into the water. Climate change has hit home and it has hit the Caribbean hard.

The Greek Church Father Gregory Nazianzen uttered a famous expression to defend the humanity of Christ in the vigorous debates of the fourth century: “What has not been assumed has not been saved”.

Thus, if Christ was not fully human, sexuality and all, we are not saved. This has been usually applied to the human community. I think we can apply it in a secondary sense as well to the environment.

Who Christ was, is indelibly attached to His teaching and so many of His teachings involved use of nature images—wheat, darnel, birds, vines, grapes, seeds, fish, lilies etc.

The Paschal mystery we celebrate in its full splendour at this time includes all of creation. Christ “assumed” these in a secondary sense as well. Hence that Easter refrain: “Send forth your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth.”

Furthermore, God assumed matter in Christ and henceforth all matter was hallowed and had to be redeemed too. The Byzantine icons of the Cosmic Christ–Lord of all Creation—speak of this.

So, thank you Risen Christ that our chip chip is back in larger numbers and many other repositories teeming with life now that COVID-19 has dramatically decreased world pollution. But the pandemic will not always be here, and I rather doubt we have really learned our lesson.

We therefore need to start hanging things rightly. Creation is God’s diadem, and we might be the most precious stone in it but by no means the only one. Without the others, the diadem cannot hang by itself.

In the ancient Christological hymn, we read: “And he is before all things and in him all things hold together” (1 Col 1:17). Laudato Si’ brings this out in a special way.

So, we all are held together in Christ, the conchs and chip chip too, and they make fabulous curry. Just remember: don’t overharvest them! That will render us ecological bandits.