Address by Prime Minister on Church Attack
A COMMON CROSS THAT WE ALL MUST BEAR
ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER HON. DR. KENNY D. ANTHONY TO THE NATION ON THE CATHEDRAL ATTACK
Sisters and brothers
People of St. Lucia
In 1976 Sister Frances Theresa of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny was hacked to death in Grace, Vieux Fort. On 13th December 1987 two tourists were attacked in the Cathedral and now we have had this unparalleled tragedy. The old year ended on a note of unprecedented sorrow with the Catholic community being handed another martyrdom and St. Lucia, a cross of suffering and collective pain. As Msgr. Theo Joseph said in his sermon at the Midnight Mass, we must all say "Never Again!"
As brutal and as reprehensible as the sacrilege that transpired at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was, we must as a nation reflect long and hard on the lessons to be learned and the preventative measures that must be taken for the future. We will as a government ensure that justice is served, that freedoms we treasure so dearly are preserved and that the climate of tolerance and goodwill is maintained on all fronts – whether religious, political or civic. We should as a Christian people apply the principles of our faith to the healing of the nation.
As often happens in a situation such as this, rumor substitutes fact and both by design and by happenstance, diverse agendas and interpretations are applied to give complexion to the reality of what happened.
It is incumbent on me to state the unadulterated facts as we have managed to piece them together to date so that you, our countrymen and women, will obtain a greater appreciation of the situation and be better able to commit ourselves in the short-term to the realization of justice and, in the longer term, to apply our collective energies to the vital task of healing and reconciliation.
The facts are as follows:
Immediately following this incident, the hierarchy of the Police Service and several members of Cabinet, including myself, attended at the Cathedral to obtain a first-hand view of the situation and from there proceeded to the Victoria and Tapion Hospitals to visit the injured.
The Cabinet of Ministers and the Church hierarchy have maintained contact and the following measures have been taken to date:
I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to two public service institutions. First of all, I want to thank the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff of Victoria Hospital and in particular the staff attached to the Accident & Emergency Unit for their commitment and swift response to the emergency. I wish to thank also the Police for the speed with which they responded and for their early apprehension of the suspects.
Sé manm Cabinet-la èk légliz Katolik ja jwenn èk nou dakò asou sé bagay sala:
This atrocious act has profoundly affected us at home and abroad. At home, the sense of trauma is tangible and the horror will take some time to fade. Abroad, our image as a civilized, peace-loving and tolerant nation has been severely harmed. And to compound the irony of the horror, this occurred in the International Year of the Culture of Peace that we had so vigorously promoted at home. The implications for St. Lucia cannot be understated. Not only has the psyche of the country been damaged, but also we have joined the unenviable list of countries that could be cited for occurrences of religious intolerance. Religion is supposed to be the most elevated expression of the human spirit and condition. It is supposed to represent – inspite of the diversity of belief – the real aspiration towards the Universal and the desire of humanity for peace, self-actualization and communion with all life. We cannot and must not allow the forces of evil to subvert this sacred gift. They must not succeed and the sword of justice must therefore be swift and uncompromising. Additionally, when there are persons or individuals who issue threats against other individuals or institutions, we should consider it an obligation to report such threats to the Police and the Police in turn must act on these reports.
THE SWORD OF JUSTICE
Our society demands that justice prevail in accordance with our laws and those entrusted with responsibility for the administration of justice must exercise that responsibility with firmness.
The perpetrators of this deed have been unrepentant in their revelations. What is astounding is that so much anger and hatred could have found such fertile ground in hearts so young. It has also now emerged that both of these young men abandoned gainful employment for the way of life that they adopted. For all of us this must be a wake up call, that among our youth are those whose humanity has been deformed by hurt, anger and painful existence and whose spirituality has degenerated to satanic debasement.
THE ROAD TO HEALING
While we bring the sword of justice to the perpetrators, we must also act to save the many others who have been so poisoned by hate and hurt.
Only two weeks ago the Minister for Education invited the Catholic Education Board of Management to obtain the services of a religious order trained in counseling and pastoral care so that they could be deployed in schools to guide and assist students affected by family breakdown, drugs, and anger.
Our longer-term response to this will now necessitate a joint effort by the Ministries of Education, and Health and Human Services to strengthen mechanisms for social work among students and for dealing with students – particularly males – at risk.
The Catholic Church and other agencies – both governmental and non-governmental – have offered counseling services. Those who witnessed the tragedy should not feel ashamed to make use of their services lest the trauma remains etched in their minds forever.
The dialogue with the Catholic Church will continue and will be extended to include all other religious denominations. As part of the initiative to re-establish religious tolerance we will – after the funeral of Sister Theresa Egan – agree on a day of National Prayer to which all will be invited to participate.
I want to thank those Caribbean Governments and persons who have officially voiced their horror and expressed their sympathy with us as we confront this common affront to our human dignity.
As I end, I wish to reiterate the profound condolences of the Government and people of St. Lucia to the relatives and Order of Sister Theresa Egan and our prayers and best wishes to those who were injured and their families. Let us encircle them with a ring of compassion, love and support. Let us, at this time, remember our common humanity and recognize that the scars are not only borne by those who are hospitalized. They are also lacerations of the spirit that deeply scar the identity of our nation and a common cross that we all must bear. In this quest for healing, we will leave no stone unturned and no measure unrequited in the scales of justice.
I thank you; God bless and guide us all.
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