Bishop Francis urges focus on faith, duty

-notes displacement of Jesus by commercial interests

In his Christmas message, Roman Catholic Bishop Francis Alleyne has emphasised the importance of faith and its influence on shaping the worth and sense of duty in both the individual and community.

While noting the displacement of Jesus Christ by commercial interests on the occasion of his birth, Bishop Francis said he came into the world at a time when there were too many victims, agents of violence and abuse and too many systems that contribute to diminishing the human person. “Our own time can also be described in these terms and in urgent need of Jesus’ coming to dwell among us,” he said in his message, which appeared in this week’s Catholic Standard. He added, “Today in the world there are still responses of welcome and threat to the birth and life of Jesus. Without having to look too far we see Christ, on the occasion of his birth, displaced by commercial interests.”

Bishop Francis Alleyne

He also addressed several other issues in his message, including human trafficking and restrictions on Christian missionaries. The Trinidad-born Bishop said that he was recently part of a discussion with others in the Caribbean about immigration policies in some territories that restrict the presence of foreign Christian missionaries. “More glaring are the too frequent incidents of violence, exploitation and neglect of people. There are too many victims, too many perpetrators of abuse and too few hearts in effective relationship with their God,” he further said.

He added that recently representatives from Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil met in Suriname to discuss human trafficking. He pointed out that this was identified as modern-day slavery, which in the most dreadful ways preys on vulnerable persons.

Bishop Francis said that legislation and public awareness were identified in the discussions as crucial to combating this scourge but more importantly was the need for the creation of an environment where people and particularly young people “would be well formed in a sense of their worth and therefore less vulnerable to the exploitation of the ‘slave traders.’” A greater sense of worth in people will also make them less vulnerable to “bad choices that result in HIV, drug abuse and violent behaviour,” he added. He offered the example of Mary and Joseph in a hostile world maintaining their focus on God and distilling their role and responsibility to be channels of God. “I offer this model as my wish and greeting to you at Christmas,” he said.