Following is the full text of a statement issued by Christian church leaders on Thursday, December 30, 2021.
Today we say goodbye to a year like no other in living memory. Our optimism entering 2021 gave way to realism and sometimes despair. Now as we say goodbye to 2021, we the Christian leaders of Churches in Trinidad and Tobago pray that optimism gives way to hope in 2022.
Optimism believes that things will get better. Hope believes that even if things get worse, we know the One in whom we trust and we believe that He is with us and that He will lead, guide, and protect us against whatever comes our way.
We ask you, as we enter 2022, to become a person of hope. Hope is believing the promises of God even when all evidence is against it (Rom 4:18ff).
We will be living with Covid-19 for a while to come. We have learnt much over the last 21 months. We have so much to learn still if we are going to live with Covid-19 as responsible citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and disciples of Jesus Christ.
God gave us free will—a most precious gift that we need to learn to use more wisely. Every gift has a responsibility. While we thank God that we have free will, we need to learn to use this gift to serve the common good. We need to learn to give our life for Christ’s sake and that of others (Mt 16:25).
We appeal to all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to live with the highest degree of discipline during this Covid-19 time for the sake of protecting others, especially the most vulnerable by keeping the health protocols: wash your hands, wear your masks, and be very disciplined and respectful of others in public spaces by maintaining the stipulated social distance.
If you have flu-like symptoms, any reason to believe that you were exposed or there is any doubt at all, please choose to quarantine and not come into public places so that we keep everyone as safe as possible.
We want to emphasise the need for each person to take responsibility for all. It is no longer ‘I’ but ‘we’, and ‘we’ have to start emphasising the common good if we are going to live through this pandemic together and flourish as a community.
As Caribbean people, we are very tactile and love to be with each other. We must safeguard each other.
We all want to maintain in-person worship. This will require a high degree of personal responsibility from ministers, choirs, and congregations to keep masks on at all times or to have suitable protection to eliminate the likelihood of any kind of spread.
We all need to keep the protocols that we have put in place in our churches and be vigilant around the enforcement of these protocols. We want our churches to welcome all people. This means that we need to make them safer than ‘a safe zone’.
We are all suffering from Covid-19 protocol fatigue. This is not the time to waver. As a result of the lockdowns, many families have had loss of jobs, experienced depression, anxiety, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. We commiserate with the many families who have lost loved ones.
Our churches must be places of hope where people can experience the love of Jesus through our worship and fellowship. As ministers of Christ, renewed in mind and heart, we need to work tirelessly for the reconciliation and harmony of all (2 Cor 5:17ff).
Our nation has suffered from the cancer of divisiveness for many decades now. That must not happen amongst us.
On the night before He died, Jesus prayed that we may be one (Jn 17:20 ff). Christ has already equipped us to build up the unity of the body of Christ (Eph 4:12).
We have an obligation to keep each other safe and to educate all for the service of the common good. While you have a free choice concerning the vaccine, we urge you to see what modern science has done in fighting so many diseases that haunted the world fifty years ago—Polio, Measles, Tetanus, Flu, Hepatitis B, Mumps, Chickenpox, Malaria, etc. In the service of all, many were vaccinated.
Many citizens are still struggling with the information surrounding vaccination and this pandemic. We all have an obligation to make an informed moral choice that serves the common good. It has been repeatedly reported that 97 per cent of the deaths from Covid-19 are unvaccinated people. Amidst the hesitation, we urge you to seriously consider taking the vaccine and the booster.
As a source of unity, the church must not let the societal division between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated become a wedge in the Body of Christ. We must respect each other.
This will demand a re-ordering of priorities at every level of our society as we keep in mind those on the margins. It will also demand dialogue and consultation with labour, economic stakeholders, civil society, religious leaders, and government to find a meaningful way forward.
In Genesis, God gave Adam the mandate to nurture and to guard (Gen 2:15). In 2022, we need to nurture and care for each other. We also need to guard and keep each other safe.
Our heart goes out to the children who have not had the opportunity to socialise, play or congregate in school for the last 21 months. For their sake, let us find a way to build a better, safer Trinidad and Tobago in 2022.
Remember this is a year of Hope. Let us put our faith and trust in the Lord for He will not disappoint us.
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Anglican Church of Trinidad and Tobago
Methodist Church of Trinidad and Tobago
Moravian Church of Trinidad and Tobago
Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago
Roman Catholic Church of Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago Council of Evangelical Churches