Ten questions with Jonathan Bhagan, Attorney-at-Law
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in October 1989. I am 32 years of age. Presently, I am an associate attorney at Titan Chambers on Dundonald Street, Port of Spain. I grew up in Arima and attended Holy Cross College and St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph. I attended university in Cavehill Barbados for two years for my LLB and completed two years at Hugh Wooding Law School.
What was your early faith formation like?
My mother is a devout Catholic and I attended a Catholic primary school, St Xavier’s and was exposed to the Catechism. My mother exposed me to Latin at around age 12 and I grew up with Bible readings and the lives of the saints.
Around age 22, I became Protestant/Pentecostal. The Protestant concept of salvation hinges on a legal declaration of a Christian being made righteous by faith alone, with good works being embellishments to that faith. The Catholic position on salvation involves the system of sacraments.
Why law? How do you practise your faith in your profession?
I wanted to be a writer and saw that law would enable me to develop research and writing skills and have a steady income. I practise my faith in my profession by my non-profit work, helping to advocate for solutions to crime and human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago. I also try to maintain standards of ethics within the legal profession which sometimes involves rebuking less experienced attorneys for arrogant and unethical behaviour. The legal profession has lots of cliques, some of which enable their “friends” to get away with bad behaviour.
Outside of work, what areas do you volunteer in?
I have seven years of experience working on Gender-Based Violence issues and Human Trafficking. This began with the Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals in 2014. I was interviewed by FoxNews.com in 2020 for a project I co-founded with a US-based software company to track sex offenders across borders and on the internet. This software has been offered to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago since 2020.
Link: Joint push for Caribbean countries to develop a coordinated sex-offender registry announced | Fox News
What does your average day look like? How do you structure it?
I set aside days and seasons to pray and fast to ensure I am spiritually grounded. On busy days, I may only manage 15 minutes of prayer but I make up for it on weekends or public holidays. Court work may involve 12-to-16-hour workdays so I take days off in the week to stay spiritually grounded.
I can testify that a weekend of fasting before going to the Court of Appeal makes things turn out in my favour.
How does prayer filter into your day-to-day activities?
I pray before every difficult task and God has always rewarded me for my faith. To my knowledge, I am the only Trinidadian attorney in my generation to have been featured on international news (Fox). I audio Bible often to memorise the scriptures. This week I am listening to the writings of St Athanasius on audio to get a better grasp of the issues around the Council of Nicaea and the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ. Athanasius was instrumental in finalising the canon of the New Testament and is said to be the most important theologian in Church history.
What do you think is your special calling and how are you fulfilling it?
I have a dual calling to deal with both legal issues and show the relevance of the gospel by engaging society on violence against women and human trafficking.
You recently published a book on apologetics, what were the gaps this work is seeking to fill? How do you see it placed within the genre of local Christian literature?
While we have many local Christian books published, few are academic works and most are less than 150 pages long. T&T is dependent on importing books from other countries. Classical theologians such as Aquinas or Augustine debated the heretics of their day and are far removed from our modern context and as such do not answer modern questions. Some modern theologians tend to read Republican or Democrat liberal politics into their theology which is a risk for us in the Caribbean.
My book Water From Calvary is intended to be a textbook for use in Bible School. It can be described as Theology applied to modern issues. About half the book attempts to study God’s love and distinguish a biblical understanding of God’s love from the secular understanding. God’s love and justice do not contradict and we see this at the Cross where Jesus took the punishment of God’s Justice as an example of God’s love for us.
The book also deals with the race issues that flared up during the 2020 #BlackLivesMatter protests. St Augustine and St Athanasius, Tertullian and other major theologians were born in North Africa. Ethiopia and Somalia also have a rich Christian history; however, these facts are not taught in many pulpits leading people to believe that Christianity is a European religion.
The book also covers basics such as the doctrine of the Trinity and Jesus’ incarnation as truly God and Truly Man. Many Christian adults today cannot explain or defend the Trinity hence the need for more investment in theology.
At 300 pages, 65,000 words long my book is one of the longest and most detailed local theology works in the NALIS library collection.
Tell us about your work of fiction that you are now in the process of writing
My next book Sharona’s Justice is the story of a young female attorney who was raped by a drug lord and has to flee for her life. It is written to sensitise readers to the suffering of rape victims and survivors of human trafficking and to criticise the handling of Trinidad and Tobago’s crime situation.
It is over 95,000 words long and will be released before the end of 2022. It is already finished and is going to editors.
What advice would you offer to other young people of faith, and how they can use their faith in their professional, secular lives?
I would encourage young people of faith to be bold in their confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. They should seek excellence in their professional and secular lives to show the world the glory of God.
They should also pray with the faith that God can supernaturally empower them in their daily lives. Hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit is invaluable. I can testify that during final exams in Hugh Wooding the Holy Spirit told me one topic that would come on the exam paper the day before, so I walked into every exam with confidence and was not disappointed.