IN 1995 Pope St John Paul II stated: “The value of democracy stands or falls with the truths and values which it embodies and promotes.” What are the values that define us as a people?
Years ago the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) worked with some principals and teachers in Catholic primary schools to develop a values and virtues formation programme.
(The handbook and teachers’ guide are available on our website.)
The then archbishop Edward Gilbert stated at the launch of the programme that to promote authentic integral human development, that is, the development of each person, and of every dimension of the person, we need to teach young people about “values, virtues, morality and personal and social relationships,” in order to form their consciences and build their character.
Have some of us lost our moral compass? My heart was filled with sadness when I read some of the negative comments on social media following the disaster at sea when a boat capsized on its way from Venezuela to Trinidad last month.
The media reported that at least 23 people were missing when the fishing pirogue carrying 34 people overturned during the night near the Venezuelan island of Patos, near the Dragon’s Mouth, after experiencing engine problems. Eleven people were rescued.
The negative comments made by some TT citizens following this tragedy brought to mind the words of Japanese writer Daisaku Ikeda: “There are no greater treasures than the highest human qualities such as compassion, courage and hope. Not even tragic accident or disaster can destroy such treasures of the heart.”
Have some of us lost the great treasure of “compassion?” Mandela reminded us that “our human compassion binds us the one to the other.”
We need to nurture in our people virtues and values that will “animate” love, compassion, and respect for each other. We all have a role to play in transforming our society so that it will reflect the kind of values and virtues that will help us to build the common good.
Carolyn Kissoon reported that comments shared on a newspaper Facebook site following this “tragedy at sea has raged from anguish and sympathy to celebration by some happy that the Venezuelans had not been able to get to Trinidad.”
Here are some of the negative comments: “Stay in yuh country.” “Yes 33 less Vene in we country.” “Let this be a message to others who plan on coming, stay in ulyuh country, who vex loss.” “A lesson to be learnt...Stay in your blasted country.”
Shame on those who harbour such thoughts! It was St Teresa of Calcutta who said: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
We are all made in the image and likeness of God; we belong to each other, and we have a responsibility to reach out to those in need.
Sadly, as Pope Francis suggested in January, hostility towards migrants is driven by irrational fear. “It is the fear that makes us crazy,” he said.
In February 2017 he reminded us that “protecting the world’s migrants and refugees is a moral imperative.” Other faith leaders have also spoken out about the need for compassion in today’s world. For example, the Dalai Lama has said: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Archbishop Jason Gordon has identified “hospitality” as one of the priorities in our archdiocese. During Lent he urged us to see “the positive effects of practising hospitality daily.” He said: “Hospitality is recognising the need of others. Let us reach out to those in need...”
We do not journey through life in isolation from each other. We are social beings who are interconnected and interdependent. May we have zeal for our mission of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating migrants and refugees.
Leela Ramdeen is the chair of the CCSJ and the director of CREDI