Monday, October 3, 2016

“We belong to each other”

Observer column for MON 26 September 2016
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Rev Dr Margaret Fowler
While she served as the Pastor for the United Church in Negril, Rev Dr Margaret Fowler was asked to participate in the Theodora Project which fights human trafficking.  As a guest at a top restaurant, she saw a middle-aged man arrive with two young girls, one about 10-years-old, the other about 12.  She noticed that he ordered alcoholic drinks for them and decided to probe further.  She was able to get his name, and sure enough, investigations led to his arrest for human trafficking.  If, as we say, we are tired of the crime and violence in our country, we need to be as dedicated as Dr Fowler. 
Dr. Marilyn Lacey
We heard this account at a Panel discussion last week at the UWI Library, where the keynote speaker, Dr. Marilyn Lacey, of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, spoke about her work with refugees in South Sudan.  The founder of the Mercy Beyond Borders organisation, showed us the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by a journalist named James Carter of an emaciated young boy, crawling towards a refugee camp to get food, while a vulture hovered close by, awaiting his death. 

Carter related that he wept when the child died. The photograph won the Pulitzer, but Dr Lacey said that two years later, the journalist took his own life, leaving a note that said, “there is simply too much pain in this world”.

Dr Lacey called us to “radical compassion” that pushes us above and beyond, to resist, to threaten the status quo.  “You can’t shrink from suffering, or protect from pain,” said the clear-eyed missionary. “But you can stand with those who suffer.”

Dr Debbie-Ann Chambers
Sister Hazeline Williams spoke of the work of various religious orders of sisters throughout Jamaica. We noted that great examples are Sister Benedict Chung who was the first person to negotiate a truce between warring gangs in downtown Kingston, Sister Paschal Figueroa who last Saturday celebrated 80 years of service to Jamaica.  Two American sisters also celebrated their 60th and 50th anniversaries: Sister Marjorie Woods, retired teacher and Sister Susan Frazer, the heartbeat of the St. John Bosco School and Training Institution in Manchester.
Sister Hazeline Williams
Dr Debbie-Ann Chambers who is in formation to become a Sister of Mercy reminded us of the importance of contemplation to centre oneself to serve. It takes spiritual strength to do the hard work of active compassion.
Father Peter McIsaac related his experiences as Pastor of St. Anne’s Church in West Kingston.  “I had a small strip of dirt between the church and the rectory,” he told us, “and I decided I would plant some zoyza grass. Every morning, I would get up early to water it and meditate.”
Father Peter McIsaac
One morning, a gunman he knew crept up behind him, poked a finger in the priest’s back and shouted, “Boi! Boi! Boi!”  Father Peter thought he was a goner, much to the amusement of the man.  After he collected his wits, Father asked the man, “What do you think about my planting this grass?”  The man paused, and said deliberately, “I think that is very important.”
Extensive research has shown that people respond positively to order and beauty around them. In our Jamaica, where the bougainvillea blooms even brighter in drought, and there are over 200 parish councillors, we have no excuse for the neglect of environment.
A plea from Dr Lucien Jones
Dr Lucien Jones, an Elder at the St. Andrew Parish Church, keeps us centred with his Internet Ministry.  As he contemplated the killings of Black men in America the murders in Montego Bay, scamming, and human trafficking, he quoted the prophet Jeremiah: "Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all, they do not even know how to blush". Jeremiah 6:12.
Dr Lucien Jones
“Charlotte is a metaphor for the pain black folks feel for the years of brutality meted out to them by racist elements in the police force,” he says, “some of whom don't even know how to blush at their wickedness.”
In commenting on the alarming murder rate in Montego Bay, he notes, “Young, rich, and heartless scammers in Montego Bay … A behavior born out of a culture of wanton criminality which has been allowed to fester, if not aided and abetted by powerful forces, for far too long in my once tranquil and beautiful country. Now populated by far too many ‘dog hearted’ gunmen, who do not even know how to blush.”
Dr Jones wants us to be ashamed of our sins of commission and omission if we want Jamaica to be healed: “For only when we are fully 'convicted of Sin', can we really follow Christ. And help to rid, our country [and the world], with the power of The Living God, of murderous scammers and racists.”

A heartfelt plea was made also by Marlene Malahoo Forte, MP for St James West Central who said that the security forces alone cannot contain the violence, it requires everyone’s participation. This reminded me of Mother (now Saint) Teresa’s words, quoted by Dr Lacey: “If there is no peace in the world, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

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