Thursday 24th November, 2005

 
Leela Ramdeen
 
 
 
 
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Service to the community

“I believe in the essential unity of all people and for that matter of all lives.”

—Gandhi

The recent euphoria and outpouring of love by citizens as a result of the success of the Soca Warriors was a clear demonstration of how wonderful our country could be if we live in harmony with each other.

It also highlighted the rewards of true service to the community. We need more people like Jack Warner in our communities—people with vision; people with selfless dedication to a cause; people who continue “on course” in spite of obstacles placed in their way.

There are many in T&T who serve their communities tirelessly and selflessly. On Sunday I joined about 800 members of Living Water Community (LWC) at a Mass and a celebratory event to mark LWC’s 30th anniversary.

I’m sure you are aware of the amazing amount of work undertaken with love by members of this Catholic Charismatic Community which was founded in 1975 by Rhonda Maingot and Rose Jackman.

A visit to LWC’s Web site at www.livingwatercommunity.com shows the range of initiatives in which members are involved, eg a home for the dying; a job-creating project for youths; a rehabilitation centre for homeless men and one for those seeking to recover from drug/substance abuse; a halfway home for battered women and children; a caring centre for the homeless; a food bank where food is distributed to the needy; Trinity Communications Network which produces and airs TV and Internet programmes; a bookstore and catering service. It was good to hear from members of LWC missions abroad.

To profess ourselves as Christians demands that we make a clear and conscious decision to integrate Christ into every thread and fibre of the fabric of our lives. While we have a duty to challenge structural injustices, we must also consider our own actions and inactions to assist those in need.

Mother Theresa’s comment on Matthew 25: 31-46 is instructive. She stated that at the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have or how many great things we have done. This Gospel calls us to justice. We will be judged by our actions: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat” etc.

She goes on to say: “Hungry, not only for bread, but hungry for love; naked not only for clothing, but for human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks, but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise.”

At the event on Sunday I had an opportunity to speak to Auntie Babsie Blesdell. Her story brought tears to my eyes. She had been involved in politics with my father in the DLP days. She was vilified by some because, as an African-Caribbean woman, she chose to join the DLP and to stand as a candidate with that party.

Her story reminds me of the way in which some have treated Jack Warner because he is a member of the UNC, and, indeed, of attacks against my own integrity in T&T based on my “perceived” ethnicity/political affiliation.

It is now nearly 40 years since Auntie Babsie started the organisation Word of Life which is another group in T&T that does sterling work in the community. I salute her for her continued service to humanity.

I was humbled by Auntie Babsie’s response to the appalling treatment meted out to her. I am still learning the virtue of giving people a piece of my heart rather than a piece of my mind—it’s the mixed blood!

During my recent visit to London Ashton Ford, our cultural attache in London, invited me to address T&T nationals at the monthly meeting held at the high commission there. T&T citizens in the diaspora can and do make valuable contributions to society here. Keep it up.

Whether one belongs to a faith-based organisation or not, we should all be committed to serving our communities. George Daniel, president of the T&T Chapter of Disabled Persons International, is an excellent example of an individual who dedicates himself to strive for the rights of the disabled. Disability Awareness Week commences this Sunday and Mr Daniel’s recent contribution to CCSJ’s monthly TV programme—Ask Why?—demonstrated what a champion he is for justice for the disabled. The Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church states that:

“Persons with disabilities are fully human subjects, with rights and duties. In spite of the limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of man. Since persons with disabilities are subjects with all their rights, they are to be helped to participate in every dimension of family and social life at every level accessible to them and according to their possibilities.”

We cannot live in our communities and ignore the plight of those in need. Tomorrow we mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. At the end of October I attended an international conference at the Vatican in Rome on the theme: Women, Development and Peace. Twenty-two papers were presented (available for reference at CCSJ’s office) on issues such as women and girls in armed conflict; as refugees; as victims of trafficking, domestic violence and exploitation; as individuals infected/affected by HIV/Aids and poverty etc.

In spite of the trauma of listening to the various kinds of violence against women and girls in our world, I left with a feeling of hope because there were so many women and men present who are committed to eradicating such violence and promoting equality for all.

I recall the words of Elie Wiesel: “This is the duty of our generation...solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanising meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others.”

In April, CCSJ sent a letter to the Minister for Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs highlighting our concerns about certain sections of the draft gender policy and action plan. A copy was sent to the Prime Minister. At the beginning of this letter we stated clearly that many aspects of the draft were positive. We then highlighted areas of concern.

If we are to address issues of equality and equity in our country, we need appropriate policies and legislation. CCSJ remains open to dialogue in relation to any revised/new draft of the aforesaid policy. But policies and legislation are not enough. Change will come when people’s hearts change. Then will our practices and procedures change.

In the meantime, let’s work to realise Martin Luther King’s dream “of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity...of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.”

Leela Ramdeen is Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

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