MSGR CHRISTIAN D PEREIRA
IN RECENT times we have experienced a concerted effort to clamp down on the Venezuelan migrants in our country. While it is true that many have been entering our land illegally and we all like to be concerned about doing the “right thing in the right way,” most of these people are genuinely seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families.
It is sometimes very difficult to balance law and justice, and we must be careful that upholding “some” laws is always convenient at specific times in our history.
I write as a Christian person – one steeped in what is noblest and best in my tradition. I am not a perfect person, but we all as a nation are being called to walk a very tight rope, looking to provide genuine care and support for people who are seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families. There may be a very small percentage who are not to be lumped with most of the migrants.
Refugees do not come here freely. The situation in their homeland is very bad. Most of them would prefer to stay in their homeland and they look forward to returning home when things get better.
In the communities from where they come it is extremely difficult for them to get basic support services like education, food, and healthcare. They are all seeking to better themselves. We, as a “welcoming community,” must be able to offer compassion and empathy. A basic Christian charity is what we all need to provide them.
I was very happy to read one of our noted columnists make a clear plea on their behalf. The wildfire of fear and aggressive “anti-person” behaviour have caused the migrants to be nervous and uncomfortable in our land.
It is true that there is a great injustice among our own people who continue to extort large sums of money as “rent” for accommodation that is woefully inadequate.
In the community of La Romaine, the work of LARMS (La Romaine Migrant Support) has been severely affected. Efforts were being made for a major fundraiser among the community called “Feria” which we locally call a “$1 Boutique.” This is an opportunity for the migrants to purchase clothing and household articles for a minimum charge of one TT dollar per item. This had to be cancelled because of the fear among the migrant community.
We continue to reach out as best as we can by:
(a) providing food hampers on a regular basis (supported by the archdiocese and donations from parishioners);
(b) providing household items for somewhat comfortable living;
© distributing laundered second-hand clothing which is always in great need; and
(d) offering online teaching – a major component for any community.
The children are always proud to present their work when we go around to give out hampers. The work is sent for them on their mobile devices and they eagerly and joyfully present their completed assignments. We recently invested in a new mobile device for the teacher. Incidentally, this tool is a major necessity for all migrants as it provides a platform for communication among themselves and their families back home.
There are many voices in our country pleading with our government to be sympathetic and not to deport people who have nothing to go back to in their homeland.
Please, National Security and other agencies, attend to those who are here in a humanitarian manner and deal appropriately with those who are here for negative and criminal activities. The latter group gives a false impression of most migrants who are indeed great human people trying to do what is best and noble for themselves and their families.
Msgr Christian D Pereira is the parish priest of St Benedict's RC Church in La Romaine, San Fernando