(Trinidad Guardian) Archbishop Jason Gordon is advocating for Venezuelan nationals seeking refuge to be welcomed, treated with dignity and integrated into this country.
In an obvious reference to the recent deportation of 82 Venezuelans following the confirmation of Presentation College students at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, San Fernando, yesterday, Gordon said they were not coming here to “sponge off of us” but because they are facing a crisis.
“We need to integrate them and we need to accommodate them and help them through this process. They are going through a very difficult time in their country and we should be hospitable,” Gordon said.
However, he said T&T people have lost their sense of hospitality.
“We have become very eccentric and we have become people who are very stingy with what we have, because lifestyle has been more important than other things for us.” Acknowledging that T&T also has serious social problems, he said, “I would hate to think that our generation would be the generation to throw away the values of our parents.”
He agreed with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who in his response to the United Nations criticism over the deportation noted that “we are not a refugee camp.” However, he said, every nation in the world has been accepting refugees.
“I was not here when this all happened and the Vicar General made a very powerful statement in the front of the Catholic News first page. ‘Mercy. Let us be merciful to those who come.’ And that’s the best of who we are,” he said.
“The real question is not about the refugees. The real question is what kind of Trinidad and Tobago we want to be? Do we want to be a selfish, self-centred country that only wants to grab for itself for what we can get for ourself?
“Is that who we want to be? Check me out of that. I don’t want any part of that. I believe in a country that is Trinidad and Tobago, that has been incredibly generous and that is what I want to see more.”
He added, “Refugees have been welcome throughout the whole of history. We cannot be the first people to decide that we do not want to welcome them.”
In order to find a way to deal with the large influx of Venezuelans, Gordon suggested that all agencies, including the church, unite and formulate a plan to integrate all the refugees. He said the Venezuelans must be properly screened and processed to ensure no drugs and guns are being brought into the country.
Gordon said he intends to speak with the Vicars today about how the church can help and work with the refuges.
“It cannot be left to one group or one community,” said Gordon, adding T&T must find a way to integrate Venezuelan children into schools and find work for the adults.