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The kingdom values at Christmas – THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

The kingdom values at Christmas – THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

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by Dr. The Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines

It is fascinating to watch the unfolding of the Christmas spirit at this time each year. Music, carol singing, sorrel, ginger beer, home-made bread and cake, “nine mornings”, the sharing of presents, hustling and bustling about town, Christmas lighting, and church-going, feature prominently. Those who are not Seventh Day Adventists, Rastafarians or vegetarians are enthused about their pork and ham. The butchers, bakers, and retailers of all sorts of goods and services make an extra dollar. {{more}}

Indeed, the Christmas season creates a demand for consumer products which undoubtedly engenders enhanced commercialisation. Too many persons, of course, eat and drink excessively; and a growing minority imbibe too much alcoholic beverage. Dangerously, some drink and drive recklessly or without due care and attention. Some others still, sadly, engage in criminal activities. As the saying goes, there is “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. We must stick to “the good”.

At the core of the society, the vast majority of our people strive to live and uplift the Kingdom values of faith, hope, unity, love, peace, and the quest for redemption. That is as it should be for a people who, as a whole, reaffirm daily, in word and deed, that our nation is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man. The scholars and theologians may debate the origins of Christmas. For us it means centrally the celebration and commemoration of the birth of Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer.

We celebrate, we commemorate and we reflect. Christianity, the fulcrum around which Christmas turns, is a message of hopefulness, of optimism, of a redemptive promise in both this earthly city and the heavenly one. Certainly, we must be reflective about the difficulties, the limitations, and the challenges in our individual and collective lives but we must not be weighed down by them or a learned helplessness which induces despair, pessimism, and hopelessness. In our condition, it is necessary and desirable to see, too, that which is positive, possible, and soluble. Our setbacks must be turned into advances; our limitations into possibilities; and our weaknesses into strengths. Above all, we must be in love with solutions, not mesmerised by problems. That is the powerful, uplifting message of Christianity, especially so at Christmas.

In our midst are the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised. It is our on-going duty to remember them and to act positively on that remembrance. The government, the Church, the family and the community have their role but each of us, as individuals, has his or her own part to play. In this regard, each of us must strive to shoulder his or her individual responsibility to help, to care, to love in very practical ways.

The ULP administration has always recognized Christmas as a very special season. Accordingly, my government has sought to be especially sensitive and generous to our people as a whole, more particularly the employees of the State. Every year, for example, my government has granted duty-free treatment to Christmas barrels. Every year, too, there have been bonuses for all employees of the central government and public enterprises. A special road-cleaning and road-repair programme has been designed by us each year for Christmas. This year, this special programme has been the most costly ever, amounting to $3.3 million, more than double the cost of last year’s programme which was up to that time the biggest such programme. This year, over 25,000 persons are benefitting materially from the bundle of special Christmas initiatives by the ULP administration. It is important for our society to make our people feel good at Christmas.

Recently, we have been through a divisive, competitive democratic exercise. The general elections are over; we must, as a nation, move on in unity, love, and peace. There are huge on-going challenges which we are bound to face together: trade liberalisation especially as regards the banana regime; rising oil prices globally; climate change and hurricanes; the consequences of political instability, internationally; the nature and character of the global economy; the Caribbean Single Market and Economy; poverty; lack of sufficient competitiveness; and so forth. We can meet these challenges successfully, together. That must be our positive attitude.

To be sure, a competitive democracy and partisan politics continue but let us all be sensible, tolerant and mature about it. It cannot be right for a small minority with personal agendas to engage in a perpetual verbal guerilla war of lies and slander against persons whom they perceive not to share their outlook or interests. This abuse of freedom and an on-going assault on other persons’ rights and reputations ought to be condemned by all right-thinking persons. Indeed, the electorate voiced such a condemnation.

So, let us all be mature, tolerant, and sensible and not contribute to the unsavoury, even unlawful, conduct, under the guise of free speech, calculated to damage individuals and the society as a whole. Let that, too, be a commitment by us all for Chirstmas and beyond.

On behalf of the Government, my family, and myself, I wish my fellow Vincentians and visitors, a loving and peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

May Almighty God continue to bless us all!

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