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Speak out against ills in society

Published: 
Friday, February 19, 2016
RC Archbishop tells students at walk for peace:
Students of St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph, during Wednesday’s silent march in protest against crime. Photo courtesy Joanna K de Silva

As hundreds of secondary school students from schools in Port-of-Spain walked through the city on Wednesday to express their disgust and concern over the apparent rising crime, including that of violence which seems to be pervading the country, Roman Catholic Archbishop Fr Joseph Harris urged them to be the change they wanted, which was so badly needed.

Dressed in their respective school uniforms some 14 schools, including Success Laventille, St Mary’s College, St Anthony’s, Providence Girls’, St Charles, Holy Name Convent, Fatima College, Servol, St Joseph’s Convent, Belmont Boys’ and Corpus Christi silently marched for peace which began around 9 am at Lord Harris Square, Pembroke Street.

They proceeded down to Woodford Square, unto Frederick, Prince and Henry Streets before stopping at Memorial Park.

Harris, who briefly addressed the gathering at Memorial Park, hailed the youths for their efforts but urged them to speak out against the ills in society.

“Even though the march was a silent one the young people must have a voice and they must be the change they wanted. “We cannot be a peaceful nation unless we are a just nation. These students must be the peacemakers of the future,” Harris said.

He also told the students that they must always strive to create harmony in their schools, homes and wherever they went.

“The march is a wonderful idea and this is what the country needs,” Harris added.

Principal of Fatima College, Fr Gregory Augustine, said the killings of two Success Laventille Secondary School students were the impetus for initiative.

“This is a walk for peace in solidarity with Success Laventille Government. We felt that we had to say something in terms of our support, for their families and the school.

“I am also a colleague of that school’s principal and we have suffered gravely over those two losses because those boys were really quite talented,” Augustine said.

Smith, 17, of Mulrain Trace, Picton, and Richards, 15, of Sogren Trace were dragged from a taxi and shot dead while on their way home at Upper Picton Road on January 21, this year.

Asked why there was no such event, given previous murders of school children, Augustine said: “I think it is the nature of what has happened. Clearly there was no motive.

“These were promising young men and for their lives to be taken so tragically we felt we had to say something in terms of our solidarity,” Augustine.

This year, according to the Catholic calender, has been declared the year of mercy. Given this, Augustine hoped Wednesday’s march would touch the nation and to “conscientise” young people to engage in building T&T.

Sister Renée Hall, of the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine and teacher at Holy Name Convent, urged young people to take a firm stand against violence in all forms.

“We brought out Form Four students to be a part of this...to end the violence and to stop the silence in this land over such gruesome acts of murder,” Hall said, adding that the murders of Smith and Richards had hit “the core.” 

On what could be achieved from the event Hall said: “It shows that we are willing to walk the walk...not just talking. Our students are missing school because this is seen as a priority.” 

President of Arrive Alive, Sharon Inglefield, who came out to support the cause, also echoed the sentiments of Augustine and Hall, demanding that the killings and abuse end. Sister Julie Marie Peters said the silence over the killings and other heinous crimes had been too deafening and called for healing.

“The students are walking in silence to mimic the silence that is happening in the country. We need to act now where crime is concerned. When crime has encroached in the school this is really maddening. It says that something has happened to the conscious of Trinidad,” Peters added.

LETTER TO CRIMINALS

Form Three student of Providence Girls’ Micah Cipriani, who in her letter addressed to criminals said she, like the majority of society, was fed up hearing about lives being daily snuffed out.

“I am really tired of hearing about a man, woman or child being killed in our nation.

“If you choose to do wrong, one day you will suffer the consequence. Please change your life and do the right thing...do not take any more lives,” Cipriani told wrongdoers.

She said she too had endured pain after, someone she loved, was killed “over money.”

The murder of Japanese pan player Asami Nagakiya, whose body was discovered at the Queen’s Park Savannah on Ash Wednesday was also brought to the fore, as students also lamented that tourists were being killed.

There were also readings of several other letters including that of Ariya Mendonça of Holy Name Convent and Kristiana Mahabir of St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, while prayers were offered for the souls of Smith and Richards.

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