As a Jamaican I am deeply ashamed and profoundly concerned about the callousness exhibited by our authorities in handling the plight of Haitian refugees. These individuals are enduring unimaginable suffering, living under deplorable conditions, and their desperate situation should evoke compassion from us all.
As a thinking member of the Eastern Maroons of Moore Town ancestry, I am acutely aware of the shared history and common bonds that connect us with the Haitian people. Many of us bear similar family names due to our intertwined pasts.
Furthermore, as a Christian, I cannot help but reflect on the teachings of our faith, which guides us in how we should treat those in need, especially refugees. The Bible provides clear guidance on this matter.
Old Testament scriptures:
• "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt." (Exodus 22:21)
• "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
These Old Testament verses emphasise the importance of empathy, love, and hospitality towards strangers and those in need. They underscore the moral imperative of extending a helping hand to refugees and treating them with the same kindness and compassion we would expect for ourselves.
New Testament Scriptures:
• "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:35-36)
• "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)
These New Testament verses further emphasise the importance of compassion and assistance to those in need, including strangers and refugees. They highlight the Christian duty of welcoming and caring for those who are vulnerable.
It is disheartening to witness our country, which boasts one of the highest densities of Christian churches in the world, failing to live up to these fundamental principles of our faith. As a Christian nation led by individuals professing and schooled in Christianity, including leaders from various denominations, such as Adventist Christianity, Baptist Christianity, Church of God, Christian Brethren, Anglican, and Roman Catholic, we must urgently reflect upon our actions and align them with the teachings of the Bible.
In addition to Christian principles, it is crucial to draw from other principles of compassion and justice, such as those found in Rastafari and Roman Catholic social teachings, Islamic principles, and socialist values. These principles all advocate for the equitable and compassionate treatment of all individuals, especially those facing adversity.
This situation bears a distressing similarity to what happened a few years ago when several homeless individuals in Montego Bay were reportedly scraped up or collected by night and allegedly dumped in a caustic bauxite processing factory's mud lake in St Elizabeth. Both instances call into question the moral compass of our nation and the consciences of those who are part of the faith community.
I implore our churches, our leaders, and every Jamaican to heed the call of compassion, justice, and human dignity. Let us embrace the principles that underlie our faith, extend our hands to those in need, and demonstrate the true essence of love and solidarity towards those seeking refuge and a chance at a better life.
Footnote: Despite this time of Jamaica's ignominy, I am inspired by the courage of journalist Alecia Smith of the Jamaica Observer; attorney Malene Alleyne and her Freedom Imaginaries; and the very sensitive and persevering conscience of my old Kingston College friend, the truly brilliant and ever empathic expert ICT engineer, Darien Francis.
Dennis A Minott