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Peace rally the first step
The Non-Violence Begins With Me Movement, which began with 40 days of prayer, followed by 40 days of action and culminated on Easter Monday with a peace rally and concert at the Queen’s Park Savannah, is a strong starting point for initiatives aimed at developing a culture of peace and non-violence in T&T.
Guardian Media was pleased to be associated with the event and heartily endorses the efforts of the organisers, including the Living Waters Community, producer Brian MacFarlane, the artistes and the many people who worked behind the scenes to make it the resounding success that it was.
The powerful testimony of peace activist and writer Kit Evans-Ford, who delivered the feature address at the rally, should inspire the many among us who have experienced the trauma and negative consequences of crime, to work to create a more peaceful society.
But the work has only just begun. The challenge now is to maintain the momentum and for others—not just law enforcement and the judiciary but NGOs and civil society groups—to consistently reject all forms of violence.
Just as the general sense of national insecurity among citizens didn’t develop overnight, so too the transformation from being a country mired in violence to a peaceful nation will take time.
As Monday’s rally and concert and the events preceding it clearly demonstrated, the onus isn’t only on the T&T Police Service and other national security agencies to reduce criminal activity and create an environment of safety and security. There is an important role for the average Trinidadian and Tobagonian and it begins with recognition of the fact that crime and violence are threatening national development. Unless the situation is reversed, there will be long-term, negative consequences for the social, economic and political infrastructures.
Already, in everyday activities, the social and psychological effects of violence can be seen in reckless driving, an upsurge in bullying, angry social media postings and an increased propensity for corruption and lawlessness.
The politicisation of crime and violence has not helped. In fact, it has diverted attention away from individual responsibility to uphold the law, peace and nation building.
It is time for more groups and individuals to support and promote security and safety. Indeed, this is just as crucial as improving the efficiency and capacity of T&T’s criminal justice system.
Non-violence does not come easily. Curbing crime and violence requires an integrated, long-term approach that addresses the root causes and weeds out the many impediments to peace and non-violence, particularly intolerance of different races, religions, cultures and lifestyles which are a breeding ground for discrimination and prejudice.
Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that in a country with the national watchwords of discipline, production and tolerance, general behaviour often displays the opposite.
However, there is hope. If the response of the crowds at Monday’s concert and social media posting about the event are anything to go by, there are many citizens already embracing the prospect of moral renewal and social regeneration.
This requires a sustained process of education, advocacy and media support so that T&T changes direction toward non-violence and adopts peaceful alternatives that will set the country back on the path of stability and prosperity.
Too often the tendency has been to resort to punitive knee-jerk responses, such as locking down hot spots and increased clamouring for the death penalty and a state of emergency—never mind that these options have failed in the past. A culture of peace will take hold in T&T when there is more listening, dialogue, negotiation and co-operation instead of force. However, it requires that more of us commit to non-violence.