CCSJ’s Motto is taken from Pope Paul VI’s statement: “If you want peace, work for justice.” It’s fair to say that my work as an artisan of peace/ as a peace builder, has always been underpinned by my passion for justice. I work without the expectation of reward.

Yet, over the years, I have been humbled and deeply honoured by some of the rewards that I have received. Like the The Benemerenti Medal that I, along with 3 amazing women, received from Pope Francis on Friday 11 September, for our years of “long and exceptional service” to the Catholic Church. The other recipients are Rhonda Maingot, Living Water Community; Deborah de Rosia, Eternal Light Community; and St Joseph of Cluny Sister Ruth Montrichard, Chair of SERVOL.

I thank the papal representative to the Antilles (Apostolic Nuncio), His Excellency Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Archbishop Jason Gordon, and Fr Martin Sirju, Vicar-General, for their kind words to us at the Awards Ceremony held at Archbishop’s residence. We will continue to work in the Lord’s vineyard because our vocation is “LOVE”—love of God and love of neighbour.

Really, what the world needs now is love. Only love will change hearts and minds; only love will help us to realise justice and peace. International Day of Peace (IDP) will be observed around the world on Monday September 21. The theme this year is: Shaping Peace Together. The UN General Assembly has declared this as “a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and very way of life.”

“As we struggle to defeat COVID-19, your voice is more important than ever. In these difficult times of physical distancing, this International Day of Peace will be dedicated to fostering dialogue and collecting ideas. The world will be invited to unite and share thoughts on how to weather this storm, heal our planet and change it for the better…Celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic”(UN).

Songs for World Peace will bring musicians from around the world to create and share songs on Monday about world peace. More than 70+ musicians from 70+ countries have written 70+ songs (#songs4worldpeace). Then there is the Peace One Day Live Global Digital Experience on #PeaceDay. You can Register today for this free virtual event: https://bit.ly/2XN0sX3. Schools can access resources eg lesson plans and practical action to “empower young change makers” via: www.peaceoneday.org.

As the UN states, “there is more to peace than putting aside arms. True peace depends on societies being inclusive, healthy and economically stable. It requires a predictable climate, an unpolluted environment and solidarity across community lines. In this new era of social distancing, we may not be able to stand together physically. But there are still things you can do from home to promote the ideals of the International Day of Peace.”

Here in T&T, peace remains a forlorn dream. There are many obstacles to peace in our country, including tribalism—as can be seen from our recent bruising election campaign. In his message for the 53rd World Day of Peace in January 2020, Pope Francis reminds us that:

“Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace …The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this…Peace ‘must be built up continually’; it is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law. Listening to one another can lead to mutual understanding and esteem, and even to seeing in an enemy the face of a brother or sister. The peace process thus requires enduring commitment…We need to change the way we think and see things, and to become more open to encountering others…”

He says that in order to establish peace, nations must learn to resolve conflicts through dialogue, and must undergo an “ecological conversion” to protect the environment and foster recognition of our shared humanity.

On Thursday we will celebrate the 44th Anniversary of the founding of our Republic. We all have a responsibility to build justice and peace. Happy Republic Day, and may the Lord continue to bless our beloved Nation. Time to stand side by side!