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Listening to the marginalised

By Ottrisha Carter

The Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT) hosted its first virtual forum for 2022, on Wednesday, May 25. The theme for the session was Walking Together: Stories from the Margins.

In Fr Donald Chambers’ welcome remarks, he stated: “I see this virtual forum as a convergence of two rivers. The first river is that of CTCT. We are a group of Caribbean persons who have struggled to provide a free and open space for theological reflection grounded in the daily lives of ordinary people. And of course, the second river is that of the synodal journey…the Holy Father [Pope] Francis challenged the Church to journey together to listen to each other especially those voices on the margins …”

Due to the sensitive nature of the contributions, the names of the contributors have been omitted.

The first presenter was a Jamaican author, multimedia journalist, graphic artist and managing editor of a magazine.

Reflecting on how he experienced racial discrimination from a young age, after his family migrated from Jamaica to England, he expressed, “At school … I was traumatised not so much physically but as they say sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt, but words do hurt.”

Upon returning to Jamaica, he began reading books which helped him to understand that African people had also played an important role in world history.

Being a member of the Rastafarian religion in Jamaica also caused him to experience religious discrimination. However, his increased self-awareness and self-confidence helped him to continue his journey without fear.

He explained, “Having faith and belief in a higher intelligence and then do good and good will follow you, because we’re all in the same life journey. Your religion is supposed to make you a better person.”

The second presenter was a Trinidadian mother of four children, including an autistic son, a remedial teacher, and a guidance counsellor. She believes that her autistic son “because of ignorance, he has been ostracised… social ostracism from an early age.”

After trying to get assistance for her son and experiencing difficulties, she decided to seek assistance and understanding from the Church by attending Masses with him.

Unfortunately, she was told that parishioners were not very tolerant of his behaviour and that it would have been better for her to participate in virtual Masses at home. “So, I just decided to shield my son from the world because I felt that the world was cruel.” She stopped attending Masses with her son and was unable to get him to participate in virtual Masses.

Eventually, she was encouraged to visit the Bethesda Community which provides ministry to persons with disabilities and their families. “I’ve never regretted giving Bethesda a chance. At Bethesda, a bond has been formed. I used to think that my son would only have been able to receive the Sacrament of Baptism because of his disability and here at Bethesda, he was able to receive the Sacrament of First Communion and I’m looking forward to him also being able to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.”

The third presenter was a gay Jamaican young man who is a Presbyterian Deacon in Chicago, USA. He shared about the negative experiences he had in his home country about the way he identified himself.

As a member of a Pentecostal church in Jamaica, “Going to church was horrible for me. I was told that I cannot take part in Communion and certain things because my life doesn’t line up with what the expectation of the church was.”

He was accepted into the Presbyterian Church in Chicago and is continuing his faith journey. He believes that “church should be a hospital … for sinners, where sinners can come and replenish their souls.”