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The tragedy next door

CATHOLIC NEWS Sunday, August 13 2017

The media reports of immediate human suffering in our nearest neighbour Venezuela are, and should be, a cause for great alarm.

In view of the recent United States’ sanctions against the Nicolas Maduro government, media commentators, social scientists and ordinary Venezuelans alike believe that our oil-rich neighbour is on the brink of financial and social collapse.

In recent months it has been widely reported that most people in urban centres were getting by with only two meals a day and that people were dying in state-run hospitals for want of basic medicines.

Sadly, the situation can only get worse given the present trajectory.

We in Trinidad and Tobago are called to a moral mindfulness of this unfolding humanitarian disaster.

Globalism and regionalism must not fail the Venezuelan people in their hour of need. The Donald Trump rhetoric of “America First” is not the only blow to globalism. A lack of moral mindfulness of what is taking place in Venezuela, or in any place wrecked by war and hunger, is also a deadly blow to globalism and regionalism.

With every humanitarian crisis, we are forced to ask whether these policies only serve the economic needs of trans-national companies. A free flow of labour, capital, technology and information should also be accompanied by a free flow of compassion and assistance in a crisis.

Alleviating the hardships of suffering people is more important than the profits of trans-national companies and internet access. Access to those who suffer is more important than access to markets.

The International Money Fund (IMF) and World Bank do their homework in promoting ‘free trade.’ What comparable international organisation has the power to promote access to those who suffer? We must look again at the purpose of globalism and regionalism.

At another level, a lack of moral mindfulness is a massive indictment on Christians and all people of goodwill. The unavoidable question is how we would respond to people fleeing a civil war in Venezuela, if this should happen. Will Cedros and Pier One be allowed to be the Lampedusa of the Caribbean? We must anticipate this scenario if we are to respond effectively. We must have the moral courage to shelter the homeless, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. This is being Church. Going to church is one thing, being Church is something else.

Our centre of concern is a measure of our national moral character. Is our concern for the Venezuelan crisis only related to the scuttling of the government-to-government gas deal? Or, does the centre of our concern lie with the humanitarian crisis that will follow if the situation in Venezuela escalated? Our nation should be prepared to offer a response to need and suffering.

Our ‘religious’ country will be tested to its core if faced with an influx of people fleeing civil war and hunger. The unfolding crisis in Venezuela may well test our humanity; it may well test our religiosity and our living out the Golden Rule–‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.”

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