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Prime Minister: Let there be peace

Prime Minister: Let there be peace

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by Dr. The Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Christmas is a very special time in the Christian calendar. It commemorates and celebrates the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Among other things, Christmas beckons us to reflect upon the necessity and desirability of peace on earth and goodwill to all men/women. This reflection, and appropriated action thereon, are of even greater urgency because of the senseless criminal violence which has been occurring in our nation. {{more}}

One song-writer movingly puts an apt focus on the issue in a verse of “Let There Be Peace on Earth”.

“Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me;

Let there be peace on earth,

The peace that was meant to

be;

With God as our Father,

Brothers all are we;

Let me walk with my brother

In perfect harmony.”

This issue, simple in its formulation, is profound in its meaning. There is no escapism in it; no blaming of this or that cause. It affirms that peace on earth begins with the individual; with me, not someone else. If everyone were to think like this the possibility of lasting peace arises. From that foundation of individual responsibility, our brotherly love under and through our Father’s guidance will ensure that we walk with each other “in perfect harmony”.

Unfortunately those who commit acts of criminal violence do not hear or do not want to hear this simple yet profound and truthful message. I doubt very much that anyone who has an affection for, or a tendency towards, criminal violence, is reading this message from the Prime Minister. Our challenge, therefore, is to get those who may be pre-disposed to violence or induced to use violence, to hear about, listen to, and understand “the wrongness of violence and the rightness of peace”.

This challenge has to be met in the family, the school, the church, the civil society grouping, the news media, the apparatuses of government, and on-the-block. Boys and young men are those whom we must reach most on this matter since, by far, the crimes of violence are committed by young men. In the final analysis, whatever is the social milieu in which violent crimes are bred, the violence begins with the individual who wields the cutlass or uses the gun.

It is sad and wasteful that young men turn to criminal violence in a democratic society where huge opportunities for educational, social and material advance exist as never before. There is no reason at an individual level to succumb to hopelessness and despair. Education, training, hard work and discipline will bring individual success in life. And the opportunities exist for individual success to be achieved. The use of the gun or the machete inevitably leads to grief, failure and wasteful lives. A young man who turns to criminal violence invariably dies young or ends up in jail for a very long time. In the process, too, many innocent persons suffer.

During the year 2004, our nation has made enormous strides in every area of activity save and except one: the quest to reduce criminal violence. To be sure, the government, civil society, and the churches have embarked on focused efforts to curb criminal violence; and there have been successes. Still, we must remain focused; this is an on-going war against violence, violent criminals and evil. And we will win this war.

At Christmas 2004, let us draw strength and purpose from the words of the well-known hymn:

“The right hand of God is

pointing in our land,

Pointing the way we must go;

So clouded is the way,

So easily we stray

But we’re guided by the right

Hand of God.

“The right hand of God is

planting in our land,

Planting seeds of freedom,

hope and love;

In these Caribbean lands

Let His people all join hands

And be one with the right

hand of God.”

On behalf of the Government, and my personal behalf, I wish everyone a Christmas filled with peace, love, caring, joy and happiness.

May God bless us all.

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