The First Peoples chief had a strongly worded message to Catholics and even the Pope on Wednesday night during the launch of a book, titled: “Re-igniting The Ancestral Fires – Heritage, Traditions and Legacies of the First Peoples. The event was held at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port of Spain.
Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, highlighted atrocities done to the First Peoples by Catholics of old, and said while Pope Francis had made an open apology to them, the Catholic community should apologise not just in words but in action.
Hernandez spoke of the community’s intention to establish a village which would highlight their culture and their history. He said the village will consist of several sectors which will include trails and craft, indigenous agriculture, and cassava manufacturing sectors.
However building this village will cost a lot of money, and while government will be assisting with some of the traditional buildings, the First Peoples intend to go to business enterprises and individuals with a model of the village, with a view of obtaining additional funding. Hernandez said this would be one of the pivotal points where the Catholic Church should lend their assistance.
“People all over the world continue to tell us that the Catholic Church was responsible for the destruction of the first peoples...but I see things differently. I feel in my heart that the Catholics who are here today are not the ones responsible for the atrocities that were done to the first peoples. That was a different period in time.
Since then the Pope has made a public apology for the wrongs that the Catholic Church had done to the first peoples, but I would like to see an apology not only in words but in action. If we can get the Catholic people in TT to help us erect one traditional building the words of the Pope will come alive”
In 2015, during a speech at the World Meeting of the Popular Movements in Santa Cruz Bolivia, Pope Francis asked forgiveness from the indigenous people of Latin America, for the crimes which were committed by the Catholic Church during the “so-called conquest” which historically led to the death of millions of indigenous peoples.
“I want to tell you, and I want to be very clear, I humbly ask your forgiveness – not only for the offences committed by the Church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”