AFTER 50 years as an independent nation, this country is still divided by race and politics, Roman Catholic priest Fr Martin Sirju said yesterday.
Delivering the homily at the La Divina Pastora RC Church in Siparia during a function attended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and National Security Minister Jack Warner, Sirju said the "shackles of prejudice and racism" still existed.
The country, he said, was still suffering from a lack of unity amongst its citizens.
Persad-Bissessar, speaking with members of the media after the service hosted by the Siparia Youth Police Club, said she agreed with much of what the priest said.
She said: "I think he gave remarks that could be helpful to all of us in society. Certainly for the young ones. He gave some of the concerns that many of us have with what is happening in our country.
"He also highlighted some of the good things that are happening in our country and on the whole I find his comments were very trusting and can be helpful to all of us, should we heed his words."
Yesterday's service which was held to mark the Police Youth Club's first anniversary, was also attended by President George Maxwell Richards, Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, and Khalid Hassanali, president of the club's sponsor, Petrotrin.
Sirju, who quoted from the New Testament of the Bible, said Jesus Christ laid the foundation for unity among persons, adding that "it is no secret that we are divided by race and politics" and "shackles of prejudice and racism" still existed.
Sirju said he had seen the success of one group over another, and "one class or classes over another. Let them work hard and they will succeed too. For whatever reason they choose not to work as hard, should we suffer them?"
He said government played a crucial role in creating harmony among citizens and a collaborative effort was needed by the government, organisations, businesses and private citizens to reduce the level of social ills.
The youth, he said, were still faced with poverty, domestic problems, academic issues, drugs, early sexual activity and reckless driving on the roads.
He told the members of the youth club to become hope to others during these times.
He encouraged them to make use of the opportunities to further their education, skills and moral values, and to help others in return.
"It is always a blessing from God to give one skill's freely to those who are ready to learn," he said.
He said no money should be accepted in exchange for helping others.
Persad-Bissessar said of Sirju's homily: "To the young ones and many of us otherwise, he talked about partnership with communities and nongovernmental organisations and so we welcome his words."