Outspoken Presbyterian Minister The Rev Cyril Paul yesterday strongly criticised the absence of Government ministers and parliamentarians at the Inter-Religious Organisation’s (IRO’s) National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.
Addressing a fair turnout at the service, held at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain, Paul said,
“The first thing I want to mention, and I say this as a senior member of the IRO, a past president and a senior clergyman in this country, with a very important concern for life in our country, for the family of the nation, I want to lament the absence of political figures here today (yesterday) — parliamentarians, senators and members of Government.
“They should be here to worship with us and to worship with the national community. I cannot stress that loudly enough.”
Paul’s public condemnation of the non-appearance of Government ministers at the annual event was met with rousing applause from worshippers. However, Congress of the People (COP) political leader Winston Dookeran and former PNM deputy leader Nafeesa Mohammed were on hand to participate in the proceedings.
Paul insisted that religious leaders must not be used conveniently.
“You see, we cannot, when it is convenient, call upon religious leaders to pray for the nation and then we sink into the back seat and we do not become part of that,” he said.
“I am sure that the whole country knows that the IRO is having this special service here today and I certainly expect more of our political leaders to be here today.”
Prime Minister Patrick Manning could not have attended the thanksgiving service as he was out of the country, having addressed the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Saturday evening. Paul made no specific reference to the PM’s absence, but said, “I am aware that one or two people are out of the country so my remarks are not directed towards them, although they could have sent someone to represent them.”
Continuing his onslaught Paul also felt that Government members needed to be more open with the citizenry.
“I feel that the leadership of our country need to level some more with the citizens, with the grassroots, with the people in general. We need to be told openly, we need to be trusted and told what is happening and games should not be played. Too many games have been played and we (IRO) are concerned about this.”
Paul said he was sure that his colleagues in the IRO shared this concern.
Turning his attention to the problems confronting the country, Paul said there must be a recommitment to the values of honesty, integrity, decency, industry, frugality, loyalty and charity.
“When these are missing we are in trouble. So we need to try to recapture these. Remember these are nothing new. These are values which we have cherished and respected and which we need to recollect and to bring back again,” he said.
And, referring specifically to the nature of yesterday’s event, Paul told worshippers that prayer was not enough.
“It is all well and good to pray for things to be better. But prayer and work must go together. We pray here but we must work as well to make our prayers come through. We cannot just leave everything in God’s hands,” he added.
In his address, Canon Knolly Clarke said citizens must move away from depending on politicians to facilitate the changes needed in the society.
He urged religious leaders to be the catalyst for transformation.