Deliver us from evil

January 12, 2000
By Terry Joseph

More than 25,000 people took to the streets last Sunday in a March for Jesus that stretched for miles on either side of the capital city, before converging at the Queen's Park Savannah in a joyous celebration.

This being Trinidad, perhaps as many as a few hundred among them may have been career marchers, merely in search of a compatible procession. A few could also have been there for selfish purposes, confident that by walking among the devout,they too would be recipients of whatever blanket concessions God specially reserves for such overt demonstrations of faith.

Now, I have little doubt that the primary motivation of the overwhelming majority of pilgrims came from deep within the privacy of their souls. But by the time it manifested, determination to complete the demanding march was more than likely also fired by a passion to make public their preference for a society that is more spiritual and consequently, less prone to crime, corruption, immorality, unethical practices in public affairs and general lawlessness.

But Sunday's awesome showing was exclusively for Jesus. And this being Trinidad, a multi-religious society, you can safely bet that if leaders of other faiths were to now call upon their flocks for comparable demonstrations of allegiance to preferred prophets, each of the resulting congregations would try to better the impressive turnout at the charismatic crusade.

Opposition Leader, Patrick Manning, described the March for Jesus as a Christian celebration. Procession coordinator, Leonard Birmingham, said it was intended to be a sign of Christian unity; welcoming all other denominations. But this being Trinidad, people of other faiths were not likely to show up in numbers anywhere near to full strength, in support of a Roman Catholic initiative.

By that rationale, there must have been hundreds of thousands of Anglicans, Hindus, Pentecostals, Muslims, Presbyterians, Rastafarians, Baptists, Orishas, Methodists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Sai Baba devotees and even followers of fledgling religious sects, who stayed at home last Sunday; although equally passionate about the need to make similar spiritual statements.

Not being a politician, my take on Sunday's showing is that a huge body of people (who might just equal the local electorate in number) is desperate for guidance. And it would not be unreasonable to suspect that their requests for divine intervention may have included appeals to The Creator for leadership in matters normally handled at lower levels of supervision. This being Trinidad, our politicians are not likely to concede that view. Happily, shelter may be had under the constitutional provision that guarantees a separation of powers of the judiciary, church and state.

But if the Chief Justice of a country is moved to suggest that the state is attempting to interfere with the judiciary and if police, in conducting a homicide investigation, execute a search warrant at the home of a Member of Parliament, then the people of that country could begin to worry.

Hopelessness could overtake them completely, if the police chief splits hairs over whether some brutal killings are really murders, his officers turn away bleeding stab victims from stations, or detectives make no headway after a teenage boy is killed for a gold chain­p;all within a month. But this is Trinidad.

Sadly, it is Tobago too, where a Senator and his family are brutalised and robbed by common bandits and a man slashes the throat of a two-year-old baby girl­p;all in that part of the nation still boldly referred to as "paradise."

And when this gory parade marches on through the stewardship of a government that promised to curb crime, people could panic outright.

The people's options are severely reduced. The more religious among them may feel that relief from such distress is no longer possible through earthly processes and fall to their knees in appeal to a higher source.

If redress is long in coming via that route, even the meek and mild become willing to endorse Draconian measures from the state, once those maneouvres are marketed as holy water. Such is the desperation to combat the pervading evil. In extreme situations, such procedures have been known to include the arbitrary detention of people whose only offence is that they fit the criminal stereotype­p;black and poor. Seriousness on the part of the state can be further demonstrated by the hanging of a few.

But this is Trinidad and Tobago where, they tell me, God is a citizen. Perhaps the prayers of the many have already been answered by a response coming in the form of an inspiration to hold general elections earlier than constitutionally required.

On the evidence of demonstrations like last year's Benny Hinn evangelical crusade and last Sunday's March for Jesus, the political party wishing to win the impending election might have to do little more than convince us of its ability-and not just willingness-to deliver us from evil. But then again, this is Trinidad and Tobago.

Terry-J at I-Level