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All people have dignity, worth

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Like many others who are happy to identify themselves as “followers of Jesus” or “Christians,” I was confused and concerned to read reports that alleged that a Christian group in my country, seemed to claim that they had ‘superior rights’ or were more ‘normal’ than another group of citizens. Such a claim is not only injurious to national development, but it also serves to bring the church and the name of Jesus Christ into disrepute.

Before I explain why, allow me to introduce myself. I am a youth leader in a local church. Moreover, I have been a practising youth worker for the past 21 years.

When I began to work in this field I decided to specialise in the area of human reproductive and sexual health. I have had (what I refer to as) the ‘unfortunate pleasure’ of working with victims of sexual abuse between the ages of 13 and 35.

When I first started I didn’t think that any female victim would ever want to speak with a male youth worker after being raped. I was wrong. Very wrong. Most of the victims that came to see me had a plethora of questions, largely about the behaviour of men. Today, as I observe the unfolding debate related to the Jason Jones’ case and the Sexual Offences Act, I am the one with a pending cargo of questions.

Our joint destiny as a nation can only be achieved through unity. Ethnic competition or segregation, in any form, will only harm and delay the achievement of national development objectives.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once noted that “people often speak of God being even-handed. God is not evenhanded.

God is biased, in favour of the weak, of the despised.” These are precisely the persons that we are meant to reach, assist and love. In Trinidad & Tobago, these persons may include refugees, (documented & undocumented) migrants, the differently-abled community and the LGBTQIA2 community. We are called to serve and love – even if or when we disagree with or don’t share the beliefs or value systems of those we serve.

The time and place to debate and discuss same-sex marriage in Trinidad and Tobago will come. The current discussions are meant to surround the act of buggery and the challenge to the Sexual Offences Act. If public demonstrations and protests are to be successfully translated into policy, it would be helpful if these discussions could take place, not between different ‘warring factions’, but rather among different individuals and groups that have diverse opinions related to the development of T&T. What is required to advance our development as a nation is empathy? This involves really trying to understand the viewpoints and experiences of others from their perspective. Put briefly, we need to gain an appreciation of our own privilege, while seeking to understand the suffering of others.

This is an opportunity for every citizen and civil society group to affirm our equality as human beings and to advance social justice in T&T.


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