The Feast of St Joseph is March 19, which is closely followed by the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness on March 20. This year’s happiness theme is Build Back Happier.
The combination of these commemorative days should cause one to pause and reflect on the levels of happiness within our society, with a particular focus on the men of T&T. How can we truly ‘build back happier’?
The adage, ‘hurt people, hurt people’ rings true. If we are to believe the headlines and statistics presented by the national media and UN bodies, we can see a general pattern of abuse and violence perpetrated by men towards women within our society. We would only ‘build back happier’ if we acknowledge that a significant number of men are not happy but are struggling.
The online news portal, globalvoices.org states, “A 2017 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) National Women’s Health Survey for Trinidad and Tobago showed relatively high statistics for emotional, physical and sexual abuse against women, both in relationships and with ‘non-partners’, from a field survey of 1,079 interviewees.
More than 30 per cent of women reported having experienced either physical or sexual partner violence or both, at least once. Close to one in three women experienced sexual violence, including rape, attempted rape, unwanted touching, and reported sexual violence.”
Women are usually the apparent victims within the context of gender-based violence, however, we must shift our general perceptions to also see the perpetrators as persons in need of help.
According to a report on unwomen.org on Gender-Based Violence in Trinidad and Tobago, the top risk factors for intimate partner violence include:
“At the individual level, the man had witnessed Inter Partner Violence (IPV) in the home, experienced abuse as a child, had an absent or rejecting father or frequently uses alcohol;
At the individual level, the woman witnessed IPV as a child, experienced abuse as a child or had low educational attainment;
At the level of the family and relationship, the man controls wealth and decision-making within the family and marital conflict is frequent;
At the community level, women were isolated with reduced mobility and lack of social support;
At the community level, men’s peer groups condone and legitimize IPV; and
At the societal level, gender roles are rigidly defined and enforced and the concept of masculinity is linked to toughness, male honour or dominance.”
The problem has been well defined and the root causes at an individual and community level identified. Yet, problems with violence towards women persist. There continues to be a cry for more male role models and mentors. Help for perpetrators is not apparent. Religious communities can and must offer solutions.
The Catholic Church continues to play its part and to offer real-world guidance. We find our role model in St Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ.
Reflect on the predicament that St Joseph faced. Nazareth, in the time of Christ, was arguably one in which “gender roles [were] rigidly defined and enforced and the concept of masculinity [was] linked to male honour [and] dominance.”
Following his marriage to Mary, he discovered that she was, in fact, pregnant, certainly a great shame, and one punishable by stoning for the unmarried pregnant woman.
Biblical passages, however, give insight into the kind of man chosen to be the human father of Jesus. Matthew 1:19 describes Joseph as “a just man, unwilling to put her [Mary] to shame”.
Further, Joseph received communications from God and the Angels, which he followed, indicating a high level of obedience in the service of God. This “otherworldly” communication would protect the Holy Family and guide the trio successfully out of Bethlehem and the clutches of Herod.
Here, St Joseph would fulfil one of his main roles as the protector of both Jesus and Mary.
Sadly, not much is recorded of St Joseph in the Bible, but what we do see is very profound. His role as Jesus’ foster father was one of protection and provision.
As we have noted, it is also recorded that he was a “just” man who demonstrated deep compassion for his betrothed, Mary. However, it was his commitment to God’s will for his life that is the biggest example for each of us.
This St Joseph feast day, and to commemorate World Happiness Day, let’s contemplate on the example of St Joseph as we seek to lead happy lives and create just societies in which gender-based violence can eventually end.
For more information about the Catholic Commission for Social Justice follow our Facebook page: CCSJ Trinidad and Tobago.
SOCIAL JUSTICE QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“We fail to keep our attention focused, to penetrate to the heart of matters, and to recognize what is essential to give meaning to our lives. Freedom thus becomes an illusion that we are peddled, easily confused with the ability to navigate the internet.” (50)
– Pope Francis, Fratelli Tuitti
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee