2013 Christmas Message: By Dr. The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
It is true that indigence or “dirt poor” poverty has been reduced in St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 25.7 percent of the population in 1997 to 2.9 percent in 2009. So, too, has under-nourishment dropped from 21 percent of the population in 1995 to under 5 percent in 2012. The studies from regional and international bodies have reported these findings. Additionally, though, there are more persons in our society who are vulnerable in their material condition.
Thus, despite the significant decline in indigence and under-nourishment over the past dozen years, some 3,000 persons in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are still indigent. And even more are vulnerable and disadvantaged. At Christmas 2013, and always, we must individually, and collectively as a nation, help the indigent, the poor, and the marginalised. We must love our neighbours, as ourselves. We cannot pretend to love God whom we do not see, and not actually love our neighbour whom we see. As a public policy we must strive for zero hunger, zero indigence.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who came into this world to bring salvation to all of us, taught us to be good to the poor. Our faith in Him is made perfect or complete with our deeds.
The teaching on helping the poor runs through the pages of the Bible, in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Deuteronomy (Chapter 15, verses 7 – 8, 10) it is stated thus:
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”
A similar theme is repeatedly present throughout the New Testament.
Good neighbourliness demands that we help the poor. The poor can best be helped in conditions of peace, faith, hope and love. Thus, the accompanying message: “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men and Women”.
At Christmas time we reflect on the wars and senseless acts of violence in countries across the globe. In our own Caribbean, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we are saddened at the upsurge of criminal violence. All of us in our families, schools, churches, civil society groupings, and governmental institutions must redouble our efforts to curtail the wanton violence in our midst. Each of us has a responsibility to do better.
It is our tradition to enjoy ourselves during the Christmas Season. In enjoying our family gatherings, our music, the lighting up of our homes and communities, our fellowship, our food and drink, we must be mindful to be moderate and not excessive. We can be happy and joyous without over-eating, over-drinking or behaving badly. Indeed, drunkenness and gluttony will ruin the Christmas spirit.
I am hopeful that at Christmas time 2013 we would put aside personal, political, and religious bitterness and divisiveness. Let us strive to be one united people in love and caring. Legitimate differences ought never to lead to intolerance, hatred, and back-biting.
All in all, let us use the blessed season of Christmas, the commemoration of Christ’s birth, as an occasion to live better with our neighbours and to improve our way of life in the image of our Saviour.
I wish everyone a wonderful, uplifting Christmas. Peace and love begin with each of us. So, each of us must strive to do better, now and always!
Let us be thankful for God’s bountiful blessings as we hope for an even better future. Let us lend a helping hand and voice to the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick, and those who are deeply troubled.
May almighty God continue to bless us all abundantly!
Have a wonderful Christmas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines!