Archbishop Jason Gordon and the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) are urging citizens to denounce racism in all its forms.
The calls came yesterday as social media continued to be abuzz with hateful race-laden commentary all sparked by the result of Monday’s General Election in which the People’s National Movement defeated the United National Congress.
Even as a recount in five constituencies seemed to continue to fuel the flames of race hate online, Archbishop Gordon, in his weekly online address, warned that a lot of heat laced with racial tone was building up, saying the resulting discord could be very destructive to the society.
“It’s clear in this country, right now, that we are blinded by race,” Gordon said, looking intently towards the camera.
“We cannot have a place in racism in this nation. We do not have a place for it,” Archbishop Gordon asserted.
One of the incidents which would have sparked the Archbishop’s comment would have been the backlash to a comment deemed as racist by Naila Ramsaran, the daughter of the owner of Ramsaran’s Dairy Products. Several supermarket chains have pulled the company’s products from their shelves after members of the public reacted angrily to Ramsaran’s comments, although she subsequently apologised and was fired as the company sought to distance itself from her commentary.
In his message, his Grace called on citizens to see commonalities in one another rather than differences. He begged citizens to forget hyphenated descriptions, saying first and foremost, we are all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Gordon claimed he’s seeing things he has never seen in the country before, adding some of the words he’s seen were used in Rwanda prior to the African country’s 1994 genocide.
“This is a serious moment. A moment where we have to stop. We have to pray and where we have to call out people who are being racist. Call them out and ask them to cease and desist,” he said sternly.
However, Gordon also called on citizens to resist fighting fire with fire.
“Please, I beg you, Trinidad and Tobago, we only have one home and that’s here. Let’s not start fires now. Quell the fires,” he pleaded.
Warning that trouble lies ahead if things do not change, he asked citizens to put their trust in the election process.
“Let the process take its place. Let it come to its conclusion and let us live with whatever the result is,” Archbishop Gordon said.
The Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) meanwhile urged all citizens to denounce racism, which it says “is a vile worm that eats at the very soul of our beings and our nation.”
In a statement yesterday, CCSJ chair Leela Ramdeen described racism as “a sin,” which she said should be “eliminated in all its forms.
Ramdeen said society should not forget the impact of racism on the lives of our ancestors.
Citing the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, Ramdeen noted that: “Without a vision the people perish.” She added, “We have a vision—laws e.g. our Constitution, the Equal Opportunity Act; policies; the tenets of our various faith communities. Transformation will only come when we move from paper to action. Faith without good works is dead.”
The CCSJ noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that: “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men and women have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity. The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it.
“Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.”
Ramdeen noted that while “we abhor all the recent racist statements made on social media before and after our General Election, we agree with the UK journalist, Kehinde Andrews, who rightly says that “…focusing on individual prejudice has avoided tackling endemic, systematic racism, leaving significant inequalities.”
She said “as long as racism exists, justice and peace will never become a reality.”
“The time is long overdue for us as a people to reject racism and embrace and promote unity in our diversity. We ignore, at our peril, the call of all right-thinking people to do so. Let us pray for God’s grace to open our eyes and those of our leaders so that we will choose values and virtues that will help us to flourish and progress as a people,” Ramdeen said.