By Kaelanne Jordan
Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice and the Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) Leela Ramdeen has spoken out against the “scandal” of the recent reports of physical and sexual abuse at children’s homes in T&T.
The Judith Jones Task Force report, titled ‘Safeguarding Children in Community Residences and Child Support Centres in Trinidad and Tobago’ was prepared by an independent investigation team appointed by Cabinet in 2021 to investigate reports of child abuse at children’s homes.
The 307-page report found severe cases of maltreatment at several institutions, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, gang rape and prostitution—with some of the activity even leading to the death of children, said a Trinidad & Tobago Guardian article.
With May dedicated to the month of Mary in the Catholic Church, Ramdeen called on citizens to “pray during May, let us put all our children at the feet of Our Lady, ask her to protect them, ask her to help heal the wounds, the trauma that many of them have gone through….”
In a three-minute video clip, Ramdeen commented, “When you read that report, one cannot help but weep, weep…They say in the Bible Jesus wept, well we have to weep for our children. They deserve better than that,” she said.
Children are a gift from God, Ramdeen underscored. She highlighted the Bible is replete with examples of this: Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you came to birth, I consecrated you.”
She also referenced Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The joy of love), “Each child has a place in God’s heart, from all eternity; once he or she is conceived, the Creator’s eternal dream comes true. It is important for that child to feel wanted, he or she is not an accessory or solution to some personal need. A child is a human being of immense worth and may never be used for one’s benefit. Children are a gift.”
Ramdeen further commented that though Trinidad and Tobago has signed and ratified many international conventions promoting the rights of children, including The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “…we are not treating them as they should be treated.”
She appealed to all citizens to love every child of the nation, pray “hard” for them and “we have to work”. This task, she emphasised, is not to be placed solely on the government or the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
“We live in communities, let us reach out, if there are families where you hear children getting ‘licks’, and they [are] being abused. We can do something. So, it’s not only the children’s homes, but children in the nation generally,” she explained.
She ended her brief video inviting all to implore Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom for protection, to look down with mercy and intercede with her Son for the children of Trinidad and Tobago and the world.