MESSAGE FROM MOST REV. ROBERT RIVAS O.P., ARCHBISHOP OF CASTRIES
ACTION FOR PEACE
Blessed are the peacemakers (Mt. 5: 9)
Violence and Social Fragmentation
In looking back over the year 2010 we realize that it was not only the effects of natural disasters that impacted upon us but also “man’s inhumanity to man”. The crime and violence perpetrated by St. Lucians upon St. Lucians have left us stunned and perplexed – forty eight (48) killings in 2010, and seventeen (17) in the first seven weeks of 2011, have placed us at a crisis point. “Words are not sufficient”, Pope Benedict said at Mass for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2011. The Pope has called on Religious Leaders from all over the world to meet in Assisi, the birth place of St. Francis, in October this year, to look for solutions for peace and religious tolerance at a global level. What can we do in St. Lucia where crime is escalating, the security of our country is being threatened and innocent people are losing their lives at the hands of criminals?
Taking Action for Peace
In January the Catholic Church proposed a plan to Government for a Year of Action for Peace. Following on a positive response from the Prime Minister who has on behalf of the Government embraced and pledged full support for the “Action for Peace” initiative, plans are now on the way for organizing a National Day of Peace and Non-Violence. The proposed date is Tuesday, April 5, 2011.
The Christian Council has met and adopted the programme with an openness to extending it to beyond 2011. The next step will include the establishment of a broader Ecumenical Working Committee with representation from the Government. A Symposium on Peace and Non-Violence will also be planned to coincide with the National Day of Peace. This will provide a forum for listening and sharing. It will also provide an opportunity to address from an ecclesial and social perspective the problem of crime and violence in our society. What more can the churches do? Can the churches identify a common ground for a united effort?
We all need to work together to build a culture of peace and non-violence. In this light, I would like to suggest that from Wednesday, March 9, to Sunday, April 17, 2011, that our entire nation would embark upon a period of prayer and fasting, for peace, respect for human life and human dignity and an end to all crime and violence, especially against the innocent. I would also like to suggest that on Tuesday, April 5, every St. Lucian and visitors to St. Lucia would wear a white ribbon for peace. I further recommend that on that day all schools would conduct their morning Assembly with the focus on building a culture of Peace, Non-Violence and Respect for Life.
This time of prayer and fasting will culminate with a March for Peace in Castries at 2.00 p.m. on Sunday, April 17, beginning at the Derek Walcott Square. A second March for Peace will be organized to take place on Sunday, October 2, 2011, in Vieux Fort. In shifting the venue to Vieux Fort our sisters and brothers in the South will have an opportunity to be in solidarity with the rest of the country in working for peace. This will re-enforce our united effort as churches in collaboration with the Government in working for social transformation and peace.
The period between April and September will be utilized for fostering a vision of peace through teachings on the Beatitude: Blessed are the peacemakers (Mt 5: 9). The target groups will be families, communities, schools and youth groups. This is a suggestion, and I would hope that there would be sufficient good will for initiating this or similar programmes.
Together we can build new pathways of peace and non-violence for our communities and society. We need to reaffirm the role of forgiveness and negotiation in resolving conflicts. Resolving problems with the barrel of a gun will never end crime and violence in our society. Those involved in crime must put the common good before their own self-interest and work for a better society for themselves and for future generations. The way forward has to be the way of forgiveness, peace, harmony and non-violence.
No Peace without Conversion
If we want peace we have to respect human dignity i.e. the life and worth of each person created in the image and likeness of God. Every offence against human dignity is a serious offence against God. There will be no peace without a conversion of heart on the part of every citizen in our nation. To respect life and human dignity is to build peace.
A Time for Healing
Ten years ago two people died as a result of the violent attack on innocent, defenseless worshippers at the Minor Basilica in Castries: Sr. Theresa Egan, SJC., and Fr. Charles Gaillard. As we remember them, now is the time for forgiveness, now is the time for the healing of hearts and the healing of memories. It’s time to forgive and to be healed. Those who died in that tragedy are our martyrs.
They witness to us that violence and hatred destroy tranquility, peace and harmony in society and are contrary to what we hold to be most sacred and fundamental values of the Christian life: love and forgiveness.
This year we need to take seriously the call to get involved in transforming our society for the good and well being of all. ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace’ (Numbers 6:24,26).
February 21, 2011.