By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp
“Racism is a sin and should be eliminated in all its forms… individual, institutional, direct, and indirect”. Thus states the Archdiocese of the Port of Spain’s Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ).
Racism eats our nation's soul
The CCSJ issued the appeal in a statement last Thursday. They classify racism as a “vile worm that eats at the very soul of our beings and nation.”
This statement comes on the heels of the General Elections in Trinidad and Tobago on 10 August. The campaign preceding the election was characterized by racist sentiment. The CCSJ states it “abhors all the recent racist statements made on social media before and after” the General Election. They also say they are in agreement with an assessment made by UK journalist Kehinde Andrews that “focusing on individual prejudice” avoids “tackling endemic, systematic racism, leaving significant inequalities”.
Heart of the matter
In view of Trinidad and Tobago’s upcoming Independence Day celebrations, the CCSJ invites its citizens to “reflect NOW on ways in which each of us may have, wittingly or unwittingly, through thought, word, or action, fed this socially constructed, hydra-headed monster”, racism. “Let us commit to root out this evil from our hearts and minds. Indeed, the heart of the matter is in the human heart.”
The CCSJ says the vision of a country without racism is found in the laws, Constitution, Equal Opportunity Act and policies of the island nation, and in the values professed by faith communities. That vision can only become transformational when “we move from paper to action”, the CCSJ notes.
From racism to unity in diversity
“Justice and peace will never become a reality,” the CCSJ continued, “as long as racism exists”. They said the “rejection of racism in order to “embrace and promote unity in diversity” is “long overdue”.
The CCSJ say they pray for conversion of heart, citing the United States Bishops: “True justice and peace can be a matter of policy only if it is first a matter of the heart.”
“Let us pray for God’s grace”, they conclude the statement, “to open our eyes and those of our leaders, so that we will choose values and virtues that will help us to flourish/progress as a people.”
Trinidad and Tobago is home to people of Indian, African, European, and Middle Eastern descent. The islands obtained independence from the United Kingdom on 31 August 1962 and became a republic in 1976.