Tomorrow we will celebrate 55 years of independence. Let us give thanks to God for our democracy, our freedom and for the many gifts that He has bestowed upon us. Remember with gratitude those who laboured in the vineyard and sacrificed much to gain our independence. Reflect on how far we have come and what we need to do to go forward.
The Catholic Catechism tells us: “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfil their roles in the life of the political community.” (CCC 2239).
After 55 years of independence, are we on our way to achieving our goals? We will fall many times because of our human frailty, but we must not give up. What does independence mean to each of us? Let us reflect on how our politicians are using their talents to build the common good.
To build a truly independent nation requires all hands on deck; it requires all of us to acknowledge not only our rights, but also our responsibilities. Pope St John Paul II rightly reminded us: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
We live in an age in which moral relativism threatens our very freedom/dignity. Catholics believe there are objective moral norms which apply to all people at all times. Moral relativists believe that morality is subjective — if it feels good, do it. Can you imagine what would happen if each of us does what we like just because it “feels good?”
Our independent nation is threatened by such thinking which is often linked to greed, and individualism. Many in TT have lost their moral moorings and the values that underpin their behaviour is leading to pain and suffering for many citizens.
And let us not forget that, as John Donne said in his famous poem 401 years ago, “No man is an island entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
Too many of us strive to have only a vertical relationship with God without recognising the fact that on the Day of Judgment, we will also be judged on the kind of relationship we had with our neighbour, particularly on the “least” among us — not only locally, but globally.
We have a duty to promote right relationships between all individuals, peoples, and nations. While TT does not experience the kinds of conflict/wars that disfigure our age, we have a host of problems that need our urgent attention — including the need to rebuild our failing institutions.
As we move into our 56th year of independence, let us commit to promoting values such as love, integrity, discipline, production, tolerance, responsibility, hospitality, courage, and compassion/respect for the dignity of each person.
These are values that will inspire us as we seek to build a nation in which Lazarus can sit at the table of the rich man; a nation in which human rights are respected and poverty/social exclusion will be a thing of the past; one in which equity and equality will underpin legislation, policies and practices; and truly human conditions will be created so that all God’s children can benefit from the abundance of resources that we have been given by the Almighty.
I end with the words of Pope Francis (2015): “In commending Trinidad and Tobago to the merciful love of Almighty God, I pray that all may continue to work together for a peaceful society based on solidarity and justice.”
Happy Independence Day.
Leela Ramdeen is the chair of CCSJ and director of CREDI.