“You are the solution.”
That was the hopeful message of Roman Catholic archbishop of Port of Spain Jason Gordon as he was installed on Wednesday. It’s a timely message.
The year 2017 has been a difficult one in many respects for Trinidad and Tobago.
“The violence in our country and in our region cannot be fixed by army and police,” the Archbishop said. “We all want somebody to fix this problem... In so far as you’re willing to bring your heart to God, you become the solution.”
At the packed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain, were President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, and Anglican Bishop Clyde Berkeley. The attendance alone demonstrated the sway the church still has on our society. While church should be separate from State when it comes to policymaking and legislation, the genuine contribution of religious bodies on the well-being of our society cannot be ignored. Religion rightly has a voice in our national affairs, though it is not the only one.
Given the ills which society now faces – including crime, drug abuse and violence against women – the church has a vital role to play in improving the quality of life. Certainly, it has demonstrated its enduring ability to do so in the field of education where government-assisted schools consistently produce outstanding students, giving us the next generation of engaged and educated citizens.
Gordon’s critique of modern society as being obsessed with the quest for money is also an interesting point to take note of. In an increasingly consumerist world, we have lost sight on our shared humanity as we chase false gods and poor substitutes. After the orgy of the Christmas season is done, what are we left with? What matters, gifts and commodities, or the human ties behind them? Perhaps this time of economic stagnation is an opportunity for us to re-align to the values extolled by the archbishop.
As a relatively young archbishop, Gordon, 58, is in a position to act as a bridge between the various segments of his flock.
He needs to be able to navigate the divisions that characterise TT society such as race, class, creed and education.
He will also have to lend his voice to public policymaking when required. While religion should not interfere in politics, the church is completely free to comment on it.
Which is why organisations such as the Inter-Religious Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago need to be revitalised in order to make a more meaningful contribution, befitting of the needs of our society.
These organisations present great opportunities for creative co-operation. They can help make this country a better place.