ANGLICAN BISHOP ISSUES A PASTORAL LETTER ON THE ELECTIONS
The Anglican Bishop of the Bahamas, The Turks and Caicos Islands Laish Boyd has issued a pastoral letter to the faithful just in time for the general election. We show the letter in its entirety below:
THE BISHOP OF THE BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS The Rt. Rev’d. Laish Zane Boyd, Sr.
ADDINGTON HOUSE Sands Road
Telephone: (242) 322·3015, 6 or 7
Fax: (242) 322-4670 (Private)
(242) 322-7943 (General)
P.O. Box N-7107
Nassau, N.P, Bahamas www.bahamas.anglican.org
A PASTORAL LETTER TO THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF THE BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS FROM
THE RT. REV’D. LAISH Z. BOYD, DIOCESAN BISHOP
ON THE GENERAL ELECTIONS
(To be circulated in every congregation on Sunday, 26th February, 2012. It should be reproduced in bulletins or as a separate flyer for dissemination.)
My brothers and sisters of the Anglican family, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Calendar Year.
It is my prayer that 2012 will bring to you every blessing, peace, fulfillment and lasting joy in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, National General Elections are approaching. This season affects all of us, and should be the concern of every Bahamian citizen and resident, because its outcome has direct bearing on the quality of life in this country and on the availability of opportunity.
The Bible speaks to us on this matter in a well-know story. Jesus is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not. He responds with His timeless utterance: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Mark 12:17)”. This was not simply a response to the particular question about whether or not taxes should be paid. Of course, Jesus’ advice was: “Yes, you should pay taxes”. It is also regarded as Jesus’ teaching that His followers should hold due regard for, and apply themselves to, spiritual and temporal (civic and national) things. The Anglican Church has always taught her members to believe and to practice this.
As the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese, as your Chief Pastor and Spiritual Friend, I therefore call on all Bahamians to exercise your true stewardship of the gifts, rights and opportunities that God has given to us by doing the following:
1. Ask questions. Read. Listen. Acquaint yourself with the issues. Standing on this foundation, prayerfully draw your own conclusions about what is happening in your country. Each one of us has a right to our own opinions.
All of us have different capacities for, and interest in, national issues (as we would with any other sphere of life). However, we have a responsibility to be aware, to make a responsible assessment for ourselves, and to have some hope for, and vision of, what we want for this country.
2. Contribute sensibly to discussions that you may come across on politics, on issues and on “the season”. Concentrate on what builds up rather than on what is destructive. Discuss issues rather than personalities. Already there is far too much discussion of personalities in the current campaign and too little debate on issues.
3. Register! Register! Register! If you are eighteen years of age or older, register to vote. This is a part of the privilege of reaching the “legal age” and of being a “young adult”.
4. Vote! Vote! Vote! On election day, make sure that you go out and vote. Your “voice” is important in the national chorus.
5. Some persons may argue that they only have one vote and that that one vote is not important. I disagree, because elections are decided by the sum total of many “one votes”. Therefore, your one vote is vital to the overall process. If enough “one votes” stay home, we end up with poorer voter turnout and with a less than accurate representation of the views of the majority, that is, the consensus of our nation.
6. Let your decisions and behaviour result from an honest look at the issues rather than from what someone paid you or promised you. Too often in our electioneering, money, goods and favours determine outcomes.
7. Some people are simply not interested or inclined toward being involved in the “nuts and bolts” of the political process, and that is fine. However, I encourage lay persons who are so inclined:
(a) to be involved in political parties
(b) to be involved in branch activities
(c) to get involved in planning, organising, campaigning, working the polls on Election Day, and all other related activities.
Some people say that a “Christian” should not be involved in these kinds of things. However, I disagree. If “Christians” are not involved in this process, how will the Gospel be able to influence the process? How can we expect to help to bring morals, ethics, right behaviours, right procedure and an elevated standard if we absent ourselves. The Gospel cannot influence the society unless Christ’s followers seek to Christianize their environment by taking Christ into the “highways and byways.”
The problem is that often some of us who claim to follow Christ do not take His values with us everywhere we go. We have one behaviour for Sunday, or for when we are attending church-centred activities, or for when certain persons are “watching”, and another behaviour for elsewhere. Shame on us.
I also call on Anglicans and citizens in general, to look honestly at our beloved Bahamas. This is a wonderful place to live. We have our challenges like any other country, but we are blessed and fortunate in so many ways. We face many issues that are not the fault of any one political party. They are simply issues in our reality. These same issues do not call for a petty, partisan, or mud-sling approach, but for a sustained and continuous national effort by the leaders (government and opposition) of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, her agents and agencies, in collaboration with, and supported by, the people.
At some times and in some areas, successive governments of this country have seen themselves and have styled themselves as “undoing” what their predecessors have done rather than collaborating on a sustained, broader and seamless vision for the real well-being and advancement of this country. It takes immense political will and political maturity on the part of all concerned to rise above “party” and to think “country”. Too often in recent times, political parties have not displayed enough of this maturity. It is of particular importance when we think of a number of critical issues that we now face for which there are no simple solutions. A number of them are:
1) The Economy
The global economic recession continues to impact our country. I can think of few other matters that will take every sector of the society to combat and to manage. It will take the public and the private sectors, businesses, families and individuals all cutting back, prudently managing available resources, while looking out for and helping those who are in need of help.
Crime remains a concern, as it should be. The police have a job to do and must always be equipped, challenged and given the authority to do it without undue interference or obstruction from government, politicians or citizens. We commend the police for their valiant effort in their fight against crime. But the most effective law enforcement agency of all is the citizens. We must be honest and uphold the law. We must not tolerate others who commit offences and we must report crimes.
3) The Judicial System
We have to commend the efforts of successive governments to speed up the process by which criminal matters pass through the legal system. However, it will take the government, the judiciary, the police and the legal profession to continue this process. Justice delayed is justice denied. No one of the above groups should be able to stall inordinately or unreasonably the resolution of a case before the court.
Education remains a big challenge for this country. Too many parents and homes are not stressing the importance of education to their children. The Ministry of Education cannot solve this. However, the Ministry can make sure that teachers and other staff are in place and that they perform. Teachers must have the tools and the authority to do their job. They must be in charge of their class. No child should be socially promoted without having the skills that he/she really needs to advance. On the other hand, we must find some educational experience and an environment in which such students would be able to learn at their pace and become productive citizens.
Any government of The Bahamas has the tremendous and thankless task of providing healthcare for a diverse society. Demands upon, and expectations of, the system are increasing at a rate with which human and material resources almost cannot keep pace. Stakeholders continue to work hard to keep this machinery moving, and we urge those who work in the system to continue to rise to the task.
I commend the government and the National Insurance Board for their implementation of the drug prescription program whereby thousands are being assisted. I look forward to the day when even more people, especially the uninsured, could be covered by some form of a national health insurance scheme. In the meantime, I urge Bahamians to take better care of their bodies by engaging in a better diet and regular exercise. Remember, in the final analysis, we are our own primary health care givers. It is irresponsible for us to mistreat our bodies and then to expect the government – or the medical profession – to be responsible for ‘picking up the pieces’.
6) Red Tape
Heavy bureaucracy, slow processes and inefficiency continue to be an issue in too many of our public institutions. This is, in part, a reflection of the attitudes of some people who work in these areas. On the other hand, I am also cognizant of the fact that many public servants and public corporation workers toil extremely hard to deliver prompt service to the general public. I salute them for this. It is still up to leaders and citizens to demand and to agitate for improvement. Unfortunately, this attitude of mediocrity in the work place is also reflected in the private sector. If we as a country are planning to compete in a global environment, our national work ethic has to improve.
7) The Number of Vehicles
The number of vehicles on our streets is increasing month by month. We are approaching gridlock, a small part of which we experienced with the recent road works in New Providence. This vehicular increase cannot continue unchecked indefinitely without some concrete plan for limiting the number. Government and other sectors must dialogue to find a fair and workable solution before the network grinds to a halt.
8) Public Transportation
This leads to a related concern about the lack of a safe, reliable, coordinated public transportation system. Poor people, children, the elderly and citizens in general suffer inconvenience, limitation and danger because of this. Young people, women and those who must transport small children early in the morning or late at night are severely disadvantaged. We cannot have a situation where the persons who need our protection most are left unprotected. This is a matter that must be addressed.
9) Constituency Boundaries
There is a pressing need for an independent boundaries commission. This would ensure that political constituencies are determined by a non-partisan, scientific, transparent method that can withstand objective scrutiny and that is not controlled by the whim and will of the government of the day. Successive governments have been guilty of this.
This selection of varied yet critical issues drives home the point that even in the election season, there are many, many national priorities that call us to have a wider, non-partisan view of national well-being and to have a vision of our country’s future that is not principally party-centred.
Keep Christ in the campaign by saying and doing what Jesus would do. Please join me in praying for safe and high-quality National General Elections.
Yours in Christ,
+ The Rt. Rev’d. Laish Boyd Sr.
BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF THE BAHAMAS
AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
22nd February, 2012