For the state of emergency and curfew to really make a difference in Trinidad and Tobago there must be a return to basic moral values. This was the suggestion of Archbishop Edward Gilbert who said moral values were lacking in today’s society. He said the curfew had been effective in reducing the number of murders in T&T. He, however, questioned its effectiveness in changing the spiritual lives of citizens. Speaking with reporters yesterday, after a special Mass to commemorate the 255th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Mission in San Fernando, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church, Gilbert said: “It’s a sort of shame, while it’s necessary, it’s a shame that we need a curfew.”
He said the way to turn the country away from a burgeoning crime rate was through religion. Gilbert suggested that the first step should be made through the Inter-Religious Organisation to have all the religious traditions talk to their followers “to do the right thing and teach young people values.” He said some of the young people “have nothing, absolutely nothing, and have been given nothing by their families” in terms of values. “The number of people killed is down… that’s for sure and that’s good news, but I would rather have it said that the country was renewing itself in terms of values to a point where eventually they would not actually need a curfew, where people respect life… It could be done by reason,” Gilbert said.
He stressed the need for citizens, especially young people, to return to moral values. He said a lack of values inevitably shows through behaviour, if not immediately, “but it inevitably shows up in our behaviour—when they ask what things to fall back on, in terms of: What’s right? What’s wrong? Why should I respect you? Why should you respect me? “This is a universal theological value and they don’t have it and that’s why they can cut each other down in the streets with all the drug wars and violence,” Gilbert said. The Archbishop said the lack of values was not limited to T&T, since it was a global problem.
He said many people “still tend to take care of their own…politicians protect their own constituencies on the basis of race or ethnicity or politics, and one of the things we need in a country, ideally is, as the Prime Minister and the President said, we have to return to values of a universal nature.” He said one of the things “we may have to watch, for example, is the struggle with tribalism in the Middle East, which is still going on—Libya, for example, Afghanistan, Iraq. “It’s a very, very serious challenge and if people retrench just to take care of their own…that’s not good for the country and that’s certainly not the attitude of the Church,” Gilbert said. He added that when “things go south, to get them to turn around what you have to do is give yourself a five-year programme, because you cannot do it overnight.”