TODAY, Easter Sunday, is treated with solemnity by Christians, given that it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for man’s redemption. His sojourn on earth, as an emissary of God, to change the order of things through impressing upon mankind the values of life and importance of salvation, was grounded not only in the belief of the Father, but also living by the principles.
Redemption, which Christ preached, speaks to pursuing a new path and the willingness to embrace values that would bring harmony and peaceful co-existence among fellowman, and for the Believers eternal life. He taught us not only how to treat persons irrespective of their diversity, but also because of their diversity. This was exemplified throughout His life’s work.
What pivotally stands out for me was His equal embrace of others. He reached out to those not of His tribe; treated women, children and other vulnerable groups with respect; chastised those who sought to discriminate against others; was understanding and compassionate to human frailties, even as He remained unwavering to God’s conviction and His mission on earth. From a very young age I can recall being taught the hymnal:
“Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
These were the values inculcated in me, growing up in the religious-centred villages on the West Coast of Berbice. As a child who lived through the racial upheavals of the 1960s, when my uncles and cousins were slaughtered on their farms in the Abary, though painful for the family, the above chorus serves as a reminder that with appropriate exposure, man has the capability to treat each other as equals.
You would go to church and hear the priest extolling the goodness of the Father and His Son and the ability of man to follow in their footsteps. Easter presents the opportunity to reflect on Christ’s work and sacrifice. It usually sees the redoubling of commitment to practise His teachings, and though at times such will be at odds with the things others do, its wisdom and premium remain unshakeable.
When the world saw the formation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1919 in response to World War I that resulted in millions of lives lost and widespread destruction, this body aspired to prevent a repeat. It “is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognised human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.”
Twenty-nine years later, the United Nations (UN) was established in response to World War II. In the conceptualisation and development of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it relied on the inputs of persons from diverse cultural backgrounds and all regions of the world. The first Article so declares that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” This principle laid the pillars for an inclusive approach towards governance and the treatment of each other.
Critical reading of the Guyana Constitution would note commonality of its principles with that adumbrated in the ILO and UN. In its preamble, we are required to “Forge a system of governance that promotes concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law; [and] Celebrate our cultural and racial diversity and strengthen our unity by eliminating any and every form of discrimination.” The realisation of these requires policies, programmes, laws and enforcement which would only be attainable with an involved and active citizenry.
A mission, declaration and preamble all serve similar purpose of laying out the parameters for engagement, treatment, and action. There exists a common trend in the life and teachings of Christ, the work of the ILO and UN, and the prescriptions ensconced in the Constitution. Where the Christian community fails to uphold, through actions, Christ’s principles, they make meaningless His sacrifice. So too, where His principles that have informed conventions, declarations, charters and articles, which are today considered universally acceptable principles, should these not be practised, such would be betrayal of the conviction and protected right that “all are precious in His sight.”