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“The values of justice, love, community, and peace are the values that form the foundation of a fraternal society”

—Archbishop Edward Gilbert

Let’s strive harder to build a fraternal society. On September 9, 2005, CCSJ held its annual fund-raising dinner under the distinguished patronage of President George Maxwell Richards, on the theme: Building a Fraternal Society. Raymond Edwards chaired the proceedings. Among the distinguished guests were: His Grace Archbishop Edward Gilbert, the late former President Sir Ellis Clarke, the late former President George Maxwell Richards, and Ambassador Christopher Thomas. At that time, I was also a member of the Police Service Commission. Ambassador Thomas was chair of the Commission.

The two main speakers were Archbishop Gilbert and President Richards. You can access their entire presentations via the following links:

http://www.rcsocialjusticett.org/downloads/ccsjdinner090905_prezspeech.pdf

http://www.rcsocialjusticett.org/downloads/ccsjdinner090905_archbspeech.pdf

I won’t attempt to gild the lily, so I will just share extracts from their presentations. Reading them after all these years, I realise how pertinent their words are to us today. Please read and reflect on their nuggets of wisdom. Inter alia, His Excellency, President Richards said:

“…we would be burying our heads in the sand if we were to say that we have, at this time, a cohesive society. In fact, over the last few years, there have emerged, from certain quarters, positions and attitudes to the contrary that have sounded alarm signals in many quarters…I have no doubt that the discord that makes headlines is not the whole picture. I am convinced that, by and large, the majority of our people live together in relative harmony, which, incidentally, is not newsworthy…We take these relations for granted and make no effort to advertise them. But there is a kind of frenzy that threatens to catapult us unto another stage, a stage of war with one another that will do none of us any good.

“This we must resist with every fibre of our being. We must determine to eliminate the forces that would push us in that direction come off that path, if we have already set foot there and mobilise our resources in building a society together. We have seen enough of the horrors of ethnic wars in other countries which have left an indelible scar on the twentieth century….We ought not to say, smugly, that it cannot happen here, rather that it should not.

“Tribal instincts, not only in the context of race, must not be allowed to determine our course, because, in the final analysis, they can limit our possibilities…we must do whatever we can, each one of us, to turn things around. We have the ability to do so and this is where building together can have impact. The answers to the challenges that we face do not lie in one quarter. Activity on every front is necessary and a pooling of human resources, of gifts and talents as well as financial resources will certainly help…But first of all, we must have a common purpose… Our diversity can and must enhance.”

Inter alia, Archbishop Gilbert said: “…From a pastoral perspective, the challenge of building a fraternal society is complicated enormously by lack of trust among people that produces either systematic suspicion or overt hostility. From a pastoral perspective, the principal way to confront the challenge is to create opportunities for collaboration through which trust can develop.

“When collaborative experiences produce positive results, then those who took the risk of trusting others can then invite ‘their people’ to do the same. The dynamic can be repeated until a trusting community emerges. Only when that dynamic becomes rooted in the lives of people can the substantive reasoning for building a fraternal society be presented to the people for consideration in a progressive and persevering manner…building a fraternal society is not just an intellectual endeavour or a head trip”, e.g. via documents or through prayer alone.

“Each of those elements must certainly be a part of the response. However, they must follow experiential contact based on trust that brings relatively small numbers of people together to work on specific projects. From that experiential interaction small successes can be achieved that can motivate additional collaboration and a deepening of the cycle.”

Read Pope Francis’ 2014 World Day of Peace Message, entitled: “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace.” “Fraternity”, he says, is “an essential human quality, for we are relational beings”. Without fraternity “it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace…The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood”.

Let the healing continue.