Religious leaders yesterday expressed horror and outrage at the murder-suicides and homicides that have been unleashed on the landscape since New Year’s Day.
Up to press time last night, there were 22 murders for the year.
Among those who shared their sentiments via telephone interviews were Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris, Anglican Bishop Rev Claude Berkley, president of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Harrypersad Maharaj, president of the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) Yacoob Ali, and secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Sat Maharaj.
Following are their statements:
“A married couple is supposed to think about and seek the welfare of the other. I tell couples all the time: when you get married, the reason for marriage is to make the other party happy, not yourself. If two people get married and both are not concerned with making the other happy, it is a formula for disaster. We have to make ourselves happy.
“Unfortunately, we have reached a stage in the society where people are thinking about themselves. And what can I do to make myself happy.
“Every morning when couples get up, they should say, ‘What can I do to make my spouse as happy as he or she can be?’... Marriage has to be rethought. We have to train our young people to think differently about marriage.”
Asked to comment on the 22 murders, Harris said: “To all those who have lost their friends and families, my deepest sympathies. I think we are trying to treat the symptoms and not the causes.”
Harris said Trinidad and Tobago is a very angry country.
He said: “It is evinced in the type of murders, abuse and road rage. We are not asking ourselves why are people so angry. It is only when we get a hold on the reason for the anger, then, I think the violence in our country will begin to subside. Nobody asks any questions. Everybody demands
.... It is happening all the time. It is always demanding. I think the only way we can solve problems is by sitting down, engaging in dialogue and building consensus. Unfortunately, consensus-building is not a priority.”
Amid the doom and gloom, Harris said, “Every day, at 6.30 a.m., I say mass for the nation.”
Rev Claude Berkley:
“I would want to express condolences and sympathies to the bereaved family who have been torn apart by this terrible act (Pennywise couple). We are never sure what are the circumstances that will drive people to these kinds of outcomes. But we know there is a need for much love in the country, and with that love must come forgiveness, understanding and co-operation. We need to go back to our roots where family members and the extended family, neighbours and friends were able to pacify a difficult situation.
“People have to try to make great-
er use of the churches, religious groups and leaders to help them with their challenges. In a civilised society, there are processes for conflict resolution. We have to encourage people to make use of these facilities. It is a very regrettable thing that has occurred. We hope others do not see this kind of outcome as an option.”
Commenting on the escalation in murders, Berkley said: “ It is an abominable condition for the country. What frightens me is a few people of ill will cannot be brought under control by the full resources of the State. There is something that is not easy to understand. It is no longer necessary that people no longer use one bullet, but many. It means ammunition is easily available. And in a creative country like ours, it is difficult to believe this situation cannot be brought under control.”
Berkley called upon the citizenry to pray fervently and form crime-watch groups.
He said: “People and criminals have a feeling they will not be caught. We have to bring about an end to that vikey-vie belief. There is a general state of lawlessness.... There seems to be some untouchables. And every citizen must be subject to the law of the land.... The calypsonian (King Austin) asked the question a long time ago, ‘Who will guard the guards?’ What we need is the political will to address the issue of crime, violence and lawlessness.”
Berkley said the “Day of Prayer” will help calm the anxiety of the country. “We have to think about many people on their nerves’ end. We need prayer and further action,” he said.
President of the Anjuman
Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) Yacoob Ali:
“ASJA deplores the increasing crime rate. No legal authority can enter the hearts and minds of people who carry out these actions. It calls for deep-
er introspection. What can a society do? May-
be we can reach out to families and individuals to curb the tendency, which is getting more and more frequent within the society. It has to be some-
thing within the psyche of the individual.
“There should be an in-depth study into the society to see what is causing disruption in the social fabric of a relatively peaceful society. It is heart-rending in a society where there is so much peace and goodwill which emanates from human beings. What is causing murder and lawlessness to come to their minds? Something must be snapping within the individual. A proper analysis has to be done.”
Ali felt counselling might help effect “peace of mind within themselves so as not to take action on their own”.
President of the Inter-Religious
“Between 1990 to 1999, we had a number of homicides. We had prayer. During a particular week, there were no murders. By today (Thursday), we will know exactly when the ‘Day of Prayer’ is scheduled for. We can generate some energy and calm. The adage says, ‘A family that prays together stays together.’”
He felt people had lost respect for the value and sanctity of human life.
“We do not value our life and that of others. We have lost values. Today, even our neighbourhood is no longer safe. Long ago, you could ask your neighbour to look out for you.”
Maharaj said: “People need to look at their lifestyles. What kind of company they are engaging in that is causing their partner to turn against them. They need to renew that kind of consciousness and relationship with one another. For example, when people are married, they take certain vows of faithfulness.”
He said the society needed to look within at what factors caused the person to turn against the other. “We have to start repairing the homes and the families,” he said.
Secretary General of the Sanatan
Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj:
“She (Dian Paladee) was a teacher with us at the El Dorado South Hindu School. A very good teacher. I think they were having problems. And this is her second marriage. I know the family well. I knew the father (the late Lall Paladee) from Pasea, Tunapuna. He was charitable. He helped us to build our schools, especially Tunapuna Hindu School and the Lakshmi College. It is shocking to all of us. And we feel saddened. A lot of people have domestic problems. And it does not have to happen this way.”
He said the Ministry of Education sent counsellors to the school and the Maha Sabha will be sending a team of pundits next week.
“El Dorado South is a more successful school. And the children whom she taught were traumatised. It was a day of mourning at the school. We are all saddened.”