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Spiritual work needed for T&T says Archbishop

Photo source: The Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago

As the nation goes through trauma manifesting in anger and acts of violence, Archbishop Jason Gordon said “spiritual work” was needed to bring healing. He reminded the nation there is much to rejoice and be thankful for as he gave a reflection at the National Service of Reflection and Thanksgiving Sunday, December 11 at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

The day of prayer was announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and brought together spiritual leaders of different faiths to offer words of guidance and prayer for the nation in the post-pandemic recovery and the challenge in dealing with crime.

Archbishop Gordon said the Covid-19 pandemic over the past years has resulted in loss for many and violence was being played out in schools and in the streets. With Covid lockdowns implemented, he said there was trauma in families being together for extended periods.

“The trauma we are experiencing as a nation is something we have to consciously understand and consciously work to heal, because when people have been traumatised, the reaction is usually anger first. And after anger, all kinds of other things…” Archbishop Gordon said.

Citing a line from Isaiah 35:1–6a, 10, “The desert and the parched land will exult…”, He said the reading spoke of the desert becoming fertile land and there was rejoicing.

For renewal and exulting to happen in T&T, people must be willing to do the spiritual work. He identified three areas which this can happen: showing respect for each other, displaying compassion, and being grateful.

Archbishop Gordon decried the disrespect occurring, calling disrespect a “national pastime”. He commented the spiritual work begins with recognising “every person is a child of God regardless of their creed, race, station in life, where they come from, where they didn’t come” deserving dignity. Continued disrespect feeds the trauma and spiral of violence.

He said compassion is one of the fruits of being with God and all religions practice the Golden Rule. “We used to be a compassionate people and I think we still are in so many ways,” Archbishop Gordon commented. At the heart of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is compassion.

Archbishop Gordon called for a return to “yesteryear values” when people lived as community and shared with each other. He stated, “A move to compassion is opposing what we see in our city which is a kind of hard heartedness, a kind of bringing people down and tearing people down for foolish and silly reasons.”

On the ingratitude he saw developing, he stated that no matter what is given, it is never enough. There was an attitude of entitlement and wanting more. This was as spiritual problem requiring spiritual work.

Archbishop Gordon said, “The soul of our nation is in need of a spiritual renewal, in every one of our traditions we have to be able to speak to our people. We have so much to be thankful for in this sweet and beloved T&T which we live.”

Alluding to places of war such as Ukraine, he said there were places he could not live. He highlighted the good which has emerged during the difficult time.

“I’ve heard stories from people who did not know where their next meal was coming from, I am talking about people who never ask for anything in their life who were able, by their friend helping them or their church helping them, or this one or that one, was able to make it through the most difficult time they faced in their adult life.”

All they had was gratitude for being able to make it through. He has heard similar stories “on the ground” and hoped for gratitude to spread through the nation.

He ended by calling for spiritual work to be done so people can live in harmony according to the words of the country’s anthem “where every creed and race find and equal place”.

Prayers and reflections were offered up by other faith leaders among them:

Maulana Atif Majeed Sulaimani, San Fernando Jama Masjid quoted the Qúran. He said thanksgiving and a grateful heart were priceless and people were expected to be thankful regardless of the situation or challenges being experienced.

Sulaimani thanked God for all the blessings and bounty bestowed and said the nation was grateful and thankful to God for every blessing enjoyed in life, “it is only through Your grace…through Your help, through Your giving and through Your assistance.”

He prayed for peace, protection and blessings for the nation, leaders, and every citizen “surround every one of us with your special peace and protections”. Sulaimani mentioned the flooding victims and prayed for their recovery.

Dharmcharya Pundit Rampersad Parasram thanked God for mercies. He said there was never a time in human history when there were no challenges, and these difficulties were overcome. It was the duty of religious leaders in challenging times “to remind people of certain other truths that no matter how dark the night is, the dawn must come.”

Parasram listed problems facing the nation: adverse weather, crime, violence, covid, poverty and deprivation. He too said there was anger from the trauma many people have experienced.

He prayed for the light of the supreme God to shines on the victims of poverty and deprivation, “who have been traumatised in one way or another and whose lives have been plunged into darkness”. He prayed for the nation’s people to grow together and prosper.

Patriarch Wayne Jones of the National Congress of Incorporated Spiritual Baptist Organisations of T&T quoted the Letter of St Paul to Timothy and referenced the miracle of the loaves and fish.

Patriarch Jones said giving thanks isn’t always about abundance but also “the little things we have to share.” He said Spiritual Baptists were walking through the streets of Trinidad and Tobago saying ‘no’ to crime. “We believe that the enemy that we fight against today is not just physical, but it has some deep spiritual meaning behind it and as we assemble, we are thankful to be in this audience together giving thanks and praise.” Jones said there was strength in unity.

Rev Duane Samm, Superintendent, North Trinidad Circuit of the Methodist Church listed the varied issues in the nation: Covid, differences in historical background, social status, ideologies; diverse ethnicities, many views how to deal with Covid, the economic fallout of Covid, flooding from unprecedented rainfall, the sometimes-divisive nature of politics and upsurge in crime including murder.

He said it was a miracle the nation was still standing and gave thanks, it will continue to, by the grace of God. “May we not run away but give us the courage to stay the course.”

The Most Reverend Charles Jason Gordon Archbishop of Port of Spain delivered the opening prayers and reflection. National Service of Reflection and Thanksgiving Sunday, December 11 at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.