Looking for Christ in our leaders
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
AS we avidly watched the news with the election highlights, the telephone rang. It was Anne Marie Rhoden who assigns readers for our church services. She asked us to participate in the New Year's Eve Mass. Suddenly we were reminded that we as Christians were in the midst of one of the most important religious celebrations and that we should be looking beyond this struggle for earthly power.
"The people who walk in darkness will see a bright light... A child will be born for us. A Son will be given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. He will be named: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and peace will have unlimited growth... He will uphold it with justice and righteousness now and forever." (excerpt from Isaiah 9:2-7)
This 'justice and righteousness' is what we are seeking in our leaders, as we head to the polls on Thursday. Here are some thoughts from an address I made recently to a splendid group of young people from St John the Baptist and Our Lady of the Angels church parishes.
It may seem like a far stretch, but we can actually draw inspiration from the electoral process that is unfolding around us at this time. Like the good servant who multiplied his talents, our electoral officials have continued to improve on an excellent system, developed through the collaboration of our two main political parties.
For one thing, we can take great pride in the fact that, through the efforts of the founders of the two parties and other noble pioneers, Jamaica achieved universal adult suffrage (one person, one vote) before the United States and many other world powers did. Jamaica had its first election under universal adult suffrage in 1944, the same year that France introduced adult suffrage including women. Japan came on stream similarly in 1945.
All American citizens were supposed to have had the right to vote long before us, but that was an illusion. Many southern states prevented African-Americans from voting. It was only in 1965 that America achieved universal adult suffrage, thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For Switzerland it was 1971, for South Africa it was 1994 before every citizen had the right to vote, and in Kuwait, it was only six years ago that women got the vote -- provided they vote in polling stations separate from those used by men!
We are indeed fortunate to live in this God blessed country. Our electoral system has had the approval of the Carter Centre in the US and our local group CAFFE has been monitoring proceedings for the last four elections.
Our Jamaican system is so well respected that our officials are now being asked to help organise and preside over elections all over the world. ECJ Chairman Professor Errol Miller said that recently, two officials from Tunisia visited Jamaica to familiarise themselves with our system on the recommendation of an international funding organisation, as that country resolves to become a democracy following the demands of a popular uprising.
Last Thursday, we went to our EOJ constituency office to collect our new voter identification cards, and were out in five minutes! The professional, courteous officials located the cards quickly and presented the documents for us to sign in confirmation of collection. This is a well-oiled, properly functioning system of which we can all be proud.
Remember to check on www.ecj.com.jm to see whether you are on the voters' list. Once you are on the list, you have a right to vote, whether or not you collected your voter ID card. Remember that the ballot is secret. Your vote cannot be traced back to you. Vote with pride -- you have the same single vote as the most powerful person you know. On Thursday, you will make your mark for a democratic Jamaica. Whatever the result may be, let us respect the will of the majority.
Who cares about our missing children?
It was recently reported by the children's advocacy group Hear the Children Cry that of the 1,808 Jamaican children reported missing between January 1 and November 13 four are known to have died and 526 are still missing. It is difficult to imagine the anguish of those grieving families, especially at Christmas. As YardEdge editor Karin Wilson noted, this is a disturbingly high number for a small country like Jamaica.
We have to be deeply concerned that after this report was published, with so many platforms and microphones available to our politicians, not one of them has spoken out against this outrage and offered solutions to better monitor the whereabouts of our children and to end the scourge of human trafficking. The idea of gays in the Cabinet seems to have attracted a lot of passion. If only we could save some of it for this national reality.
Food For the Poor pays fines for non-violent prisoners
We read last week of the local release of 21 non-violent prisoners by Food For the Poor. These are persons guilty of petty crimes for which they cannot afford the fine and this programme of releases at Christmas and Easter allows them to be reunited with their families.
Food For the Poor President Robin Mahfood sent me a photograph of some Haitian prisoners being released and commented, "As these guys are leaving the prison area, we want to think about Ti Jo who spent three months in prison just because he tried to steal plantains from his boss to feed his six kids. He spent three months in jail because he was unable to pay the US$2 required by the judge. While he was in prison, two of his children died from malnutrition. Now, he is happy to be free at last, even though he doesn't know for sure, he said, how many of his children are still alive, and this is really painful." Think about the 'Ti Jos' of Jamaica before we waste another morsel.
See you back here next year. Have a Happy New Year!
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