social justice – rcsocialjustice.org
As we journey through the Synod together, the CCSJ recommends that each member of our Church adopts an approach of listening, not only to those of our own faith, but also adherents of other religions in T&T, including Hinduism.
According to the 2018 Trinidad and Tobago International Religious Freedom report, 18.2 per cent of our population are Hindus. As such, if we are to form a harmonious society, we must cultivate peace though interreligious dialogue and develop a societal culture which appreciates the commonalities of each religion.
The CCSJ held a landmark conversation on World Day of the Poor, November 14, 2021, to bring to light these synergies with respect to the poor and vulnerable within society. The call was clear – we must unite for the betterment of all. Below is an extract from Pundit Satyanand Maraj on the issue of poverty alleviation in Trinidad and Tobago:
“Poverty alleviation may exist for a long time to come unless we can find the root cause of the problem. Now, we can deal with the immediate needs, such as hunger, but we must also realise that we do not only have those in need of food hampers because they’re unemployed, but we also have those struggling because of the pandemic.
These can consist of the educated unemployed and the working poor in this country who have the money to pay their rent but are unable to afford a proper meal or feed their children.
Poverty extends not just to meals/food, but to clothing and shelter also. However, it’s important that we do not use the opportunity to exploit the souls to fill our dues when reaching out to those in need.
In the case of my mandir, we do not look at race, religion, or culture but rather at the humanity of mankind. We should strive as much as possible to be our brother’s keeper.
One of the many ways we do this is by taking care of basic needs, such as food. For example, whenever pundits do pujas, we collect a lot of food which we package and redistribute.
Apart from the formal way of doing things, where temples come together and gather food stuff and materials for the poor, I want to make an appeal to those of you who can rummage around in your kitchen cupboards.
Oftentimes we buy groceries that are never used or go on to expire. I want to encourage these individuals, the way we encourage our flock, to give with your own hands, because the hands that serve are greater than the hands that pray. We all know who the poor people are within our communities, and distributing food is one of the ways of helping to eliminate the immediate hunger.
People often lose the will to do for themselves. This results in them feeling as if they have nothing left. And, since we have a culture of transmitting our values, morals, and everything else to our children and significant others, we run the risk of breeding a life of poverty.
In Hinduism, we have a saying that we have a daily duty and responsibility to humanity. Not monthly or weekly, but daily. So, in being our brother’s keeper, we not only have a responsibility to package goods for them, but also to ensure it reaches them. If we take an interest in our neighbours and their children, we are taking an interest in our own safety and security.
Apart from food, clothing, and shelter, we also have to look at what has transpired over the last year. During this time, we have seen a further division between those who have and those who don’t, because of technology.
A lack of access to devices means many children do not have a way to communicate, which can be viewed as another category of poverty, one where they are denied education.
In the Hindu community, persons give formally through temples and schools, but are also encouraged to give privately. I believe that those we give to should be able to make their own decision about whether or not they want the public to know what they are receiving.
Giving should always be done with love and not for praise. Therefore, we should not take away the right from those we are helping to say thank you or to simply receive quietly. We have a particular saying when we give a gift, we say, “Om Shri Krishna arpanam,” which means “I give this not in my name, I give this in the name of God.”
For the full transcript of our interfaith dialogue, check out the full e-book on www.rcsocialjustice.org