Friday, February 23, 2024
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HomeEducation / CultureThe Arch-Imposer

The Arch-Imposer

– Fred is still trying to help women get the power to make their own decisions regarding childbirth. He is committed to safe motherhood.

Dr Fred Nunes

When I told my formerly Roman Catholic wife that Archbishop Jason Gordon was in a twist over the Samoa Agreement, claiming that it would “impose” European values on the Caribbean, she promptly remarked that “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

The archbishop is himself a major agent of the imposition of values he so loudly opposes. His robes and his theology were imposed. They did not evolve in Tunapuna. The Catholic Church used religion to “civilize” both the continent of Africa and the so-called New World. They literally built their churches on top of the physical structures of indigenous peoples’ places of workshop.

Gordon’s great flap is quite unfounded. The Caribbean governments are well known for signing one convention after another and then totally ignoring any obligation to act on those commitments. If only master Jason had kept his mouth shut, far fewer of us would have known anything about Samoa. But he used his pulpit to alert us, so now the “people of the deep sea” can rise and demand their rights.

Irony upon irony. The anti-choice, woman-suppressing, patriarchal value to which the archbishop clings, is a nineteenth-century abortion law (1861) that almost all of Europe has long discarded. But most of the great sovereign, independent, English-speaking Caribbean still sticks blindly to it! Belize, St, Vincent, and Saint Lucia have modified it, while Barbados and Guyana have stepped away from it altogether.

The Caribbean is a sad shadow of European colonization. In our tiny square inch of the world, we have every shade of the six phases of abortion laws – from total prohibition in the Dominican Republic, Netherland Antilles, and Surinam, to full choice in Cuba, French Guiana, and Guyana. Indeed, on one of our tiniest islands, we have the absurdity of total prohibition (Saint Martin) and total choice (Sint. Marten) together.

Still more irony: While the Netherland Antilles and Surinam hang on to a colonial law of total prohibition and experience high abortion, The Netherlands with a very liberal law enjoys one of the lowest abortion rates in the world.

The archbishop seems to be oblivious of the fact that the Caribbean has the second-highest abortion rate, the second-highest rate of intimate partner violence, and probably the highest rate of childhood sexual abuse in the world. We are second only to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Am I to understand that this is the pristine Caribbean culture that the archbishop wants to preserve from further European imposition? His commitment to blind imported church morality seems to have dulled his concern for social ethics – for fairness, equity, diversity, inclusion, justice and kindness.

And yet Archbishop Gordon is not my real concern. He has every right, if not a duty to speak up. My far greater concern is those other religious leaders who cower when he speaks. My alarm is with those who stay silent and invisible. Where are the religious leaders who care about women and families? Where are their voices? Their silence is our greatest violence.

“Truth is not only violated by falsehood, it may be equally outraged by silence.” (Swiss philosopher, Henri Frédéric Amiel)

I long to hear from the liberal leaders in our religions. I know they exist. Where is their courage?

Dr Fred Nunes, former Head of Management Studies at UWI, Mona. In 1976, he created access to UWI for residents of non-campus countries. In the 80s, he worked with UNDP/CARICAD in Barbados and PAHO in Guyana (where I met him in my days with PAHO). In the 90s, he conducted research and led the successful process for abortion law reform in Guyana. He subsequently returned to the World Bank from which he retired.

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