I especially welcome the opportunity to address the community in this season of “goodwill towards our fellow man”.
I want to focus on encouraging the spirit of goodwill to our fellow man because it is a good in itself, but also because I am concerned at this time, at the erosion in the sense of community here in our beloved Cayman Islands. My message therefore is that we seek to fully enjoy this period of celebration; but I carry also a burden of care, which calls for some sobering thoughts, some real soul-searching at this time.
At one extreme, the erosion of community I am speaking of is taking the form of some shocking crimes being committed. Everything possible must be done to put a stop to this sort of behaviour, from the use of preventive programmes, to the employment of the full force of the law.
But this is not the only danger, not the only form of attack on our sense of community. What is unfortunately becoming more commonplace is a leaning towards getting ahead, either at the expense of others, or without concern for their welfare; and, more and more we witness stereotyping of people by their appearance, their accent, their nationality. If we think less of people because of what they look like, or where they come from, what comes next? Condemnation based on political affiliation? On religious belief?
Jesus, whose birth Christians celebrate during this season, set a lasting example of tolerance. I believe that his accepting, humble nature in great part accounts for the esteem in which the Christmas season is held. John 4:7-27 tells the story of the Samaritan woman at the well from whom Jesus accepted water, to the great astonishment of his disciples. By conversing with a woman who was not a family member, and furthermore, who was from a nation held in contempt by his own, he broke two central Jewish traditions.
My wish for 2011 is for the residents of the Cayman Islands to not judge others, in the same way that Jesus made the break from such thinking. Together we can improve the social, spiritual and cultural life of our community, and we could do worse than begin by questioning our assumptions about other people.
We are a small but diverse nation, with a history of being God-fearing, known for our friendliness and traditions that stress a strong sense of community, a robust sense of ethics and fair play, and respect for the rule of law. Together we have an opportunity to be a beacon to the world – to show the best of what it is to be Christ-like, through our behaviour towards others who are different from us.
I do not mean that we ought to be a theocracy, and I am not promoting this form of governance, in which one form of religious belief trumps all others, and subverts the separation of powers as we know it.
No, I believe in democracy, in the democratic form of governance, which calls for tolerance; for a willingness to not be arbitrary judges of each other, but rather, to make broad allowances as to how people look, and speak, how they express their belonging. To be kind, not judgmental, nor hateful and blaming of others for our own failure to do right for ourselves and then publicly lay all manner of blame and accusation on some official. Is that fair, is it what God really wants of us?
For the removal of doubt, let me say plainly that I am not calling for my fellow Caymanians to give up all they believe in; everybody has a place they call home – this is ours. Those who are not from here, who wish to make Cayman their home, we should invite into open and honest dialogue with us. Our tolerance for one another, for what we as different peoples may bring into community, requires no less; it will call for honest self-appraisal, and a strong sense of humility.
Let us remember that Jesus himself only came into the world in a setting of physical poverty, when an innkeeper, in a strange town, took pity on his parents and offered them room in a stable, amongst the animals. Throughout his life, Jesus embodied the ability to see beyond the outward projection of a person’s image and behaviour. Urged by his disciples to smite a town where he had been roughly received, Jesus responded:
“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” Luke 9:52-56:
As a people of Christian heritage, I therefore call on us as Caymanians to take the lead, to truly acknowledge what Christians must know – that humility is the iron of the soul. Without genuine humility, forgiveness is not possible, real tolerance is not possible, authentic celebration of each other’s gifts is not possible.
Let us make a fresh start in this blessed Christmas season towards greater tolerance, towards the building of community; and may God richly bless us all as we undertake this endeavour.
Premier McKeeva Bush