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T&T needs firefighters, not arsonists

The current murder rate is higher than it was in 2021, and there appears to be no end in sight to the death of our children, whether it is through accidental mishaps like a gate falling, or collateral damage as our Venezuelan brothers and sisters make that treacherous and illegal journey in search of an enhanced quality of life for themselves and their children.

Amidst the baying for the blood of the murderers, and the cries for justice and equality of treatment in the Venezuelan quagmire, Jesus challenges us in this Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 6: 27–38) to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

This attitude, espoused by the likes of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, is the polar opposite of what we have become accustomed to as a society that now thrives on revenge, payback, and “badjohnism.”

This challenge to build a civilisation of love will only occur, as Pope Francis often reminds us, when there is a firm commitment from all parties to denounce every form of violence, vengeance, and hatred, and to affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.

What is needed, declares the Pontiff “are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction.”

There is no doubt that we live today in a society that sees every situation in stark black and white terms, wanting either all or nothing, without understanding or appreciating the many shades of grey that lie between the two.

Nowhere is this more apparent in the never-ending fight between those elected to govern and those waiting in the wings. Both appeal to forms of populism which do not help to consolidate peace and stability.

Indeed, no incitement to violence of any kind, whether in word or deed, will guarantee peace, and every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is, in reality, a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.

Certainly, there must be no sparing of efforts to eliminate situations of poverty and exploitation where they exist. There must also be greater efforts made at honest dialogue and authentic consultation, such that the voices that are truly representative of the people will be heard.

But in all of this, there is a growing need for our leaders to demonstrate greater prudence in their language, to learn again how to turn the other cheek, and become firefighters, not arsonists.

As we approach our 60th anniversary of Independence, now might be as good a time for us to collectively press pause and decide on the nature of the society we want to create.

Pope Francis said, “the only alternative to a civilization of encounter is the incivility of confrontation” and “to truly contrast the barbarities of the one who breathes on hate and incites to violence, one must accompany and bring to maturity generations that respond to the incendiary logic of evil with the patient growth of good.”

There is still time.





 

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