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Statement by the Honourable Prime Minister at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception - Monday 31 December 2001

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Fellow Christians……

I was born into a different religion.  But I share the same faith and trust in God as all Christians do.  I acknowledge his omnipotence and regard him as the supreme ruler of all things.

I have always regarded Church buildings as a sanctuary of peace ..  as a place of communion between the natural and the supernatural … between the fallible and the infallible.

As a boy, I was ever conscious of the aura of this magnificent Cathedral.  Its calming influence would be felt many miles away.  I remember reading of the role that it played during and after the bombings at the Northern Wharf in 1942, and again during and after the 1948 fire.  Indeed, this Cathedral was one of the buildings to survive the 1948 fire.  The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny would know of the impressive Centenary celebrations which were held in this very Church in 1954.

With this widely accepted role in our country’s social history, I could never have imagined that it was at all possible for this beloved Cathedral to have been defiled in the way that it was, one year ago, today.

I still vividly remember the feeling of shock that gripped me, on receiving that telephone call on that wretched morning.  The visual evidence that assaulted me as I walked through the Church, minutes later, left me with an indescribable pain and sadness.

It is an experience that I will never forget.  And frankly it’s and experience that all Saint Lucians should always remember.

Anyone reflecting on this incident cannot fail to be humbled by it.  It has helped to remind us of our imperfections as human beings.  It has forced us to ponder our purpose in life.  It has helped us to realize how easily mankind can drift from the moorings of civilized behaviour.

The great Civil Rights Leader – Martin Luther King once said that “… the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men and women to do nothing to stop it”  Side by side with the condemnation of those who may have committed this senseless act, was an awakening of the nation’s conscience.

The focus then, was on whether the act was in some way linked to anything that we may have done, or omitted to do.  But more critically, it has helped us to reconnect to our spiritual roots and to understand the inseparable linkages between our actions and inactions and those of our fellow men.

I will always grieve the loss of the lives of Sister Theresa Eagan and Father Charles Gailliard.  I will always regret the deep physical and psychological scars that have been inflicted on those who witnessed this incident and the thousands of Christians across the length and breath of Saint Lucia.  I am aware that some of the injured have not yet recovered fully.

I think also of the parents of those who are being linked with this act.

It is nearly impossible for anyone to suggest that the hideous act that was committed here a year ago, has brought good.  But in my humble opinion, this sordid incident has given us new strength and renewed spiritual courage.  It has reminded us of the evils of religious bigotry.

I recall the splurge of letters and articles in the press and the many calls of indignation to the Talks Shows, which was spawned in the immediate aftermath of this incident.  What struck me then, was the near – national sense of guilt that was being expressed.

Inevitably, this soul –searching has forced a reaffirmation of our Christian principles.  The many prayer vigils that were held in the weeks and months following the incident suggested that a spiritual wind was sweeping our land.

We have seen evidence of this, in the outpouring from Saint Lucians from all walks of life, to those seeking various forms of assistance.  Overall, we have become more attentive of the plight of the less fortunate among us.  More of us have learnt to become our brother’s keeper.

The Government has not been immune to this transformation.  The incident has forced my Government to step up its fight against poverty – the acknowledged parent of revolution and crime.  It has prompted more attention to be given to counseling in our schools and in our communities.  It has resulted in larger investments in skills training, job creation and recreational facilities for our young people.  And it has led us to try to understand the roots of the violence that was expressed here, one year ago.

I give you the solemn pledge that the Government which I have the honour to lead, will do all in its power to ensure that this incident is not repeated.  I look forward to working with all Churches in the New Year, to review the effectiveness of the strategies that we have implemented over the past year, and to jointly plan new approaches, to the social and spiritual development of our people.

 May God continue to be our refuge and our strength.


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