Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi Venezuela # ||||*&* ||119 //
On the attack against Fr Clyde Harvey

THE voice message at the end of the line on Fr Clyde Harvey’s cellphone says Pope Francis wants all of us to remember that each one of us is essentially Holy.

He stands by that.

In the attack on him at the St Martin’s Church in Gonzales last Monday morning, Fr Harvey said it should not be about him.

“It is about the citizenry,” he told the Express reporter the morning after.

“This is about stupid little boys who are used as tools,” he said.

“It is about young men and the inevitable failure of the society to provide meaningful employment for them. It is about impediments to some who are aspiring to be the best men they can be.”

He said, probably deadly serious, that there are as many issues to be concerned about if crime were to be reduced, let alone eradicated.

“Crime has become a business. It is the business of those who will reap more profits if there is crime. Any government would be in crisis if crime was cut. Thousands of people would be out of a job if crime was reduced.”

There has been a good deal of commentary from many quarters in the society, in the wake of the attack on him, with some commentators interpreting the public outrage as a sign of the horror that crime has reached the church.

Not just the door, but well inside.

But this perspective misses the point, by miles.

People have been robbed in church.

Bandits have broken into and stolen precious items from off the altar.

And in many ways, Fr Harvey is no stranger to crime.

He has devoted considerable amounts of his time to working with youths who are actively involved in crime as their daily business, trying to convince them of the value to be gained from a turn-around.

He was associated, in one such mission, with Kerwin “Fresh” Phillip, the reputed gang leader who was lured to his death in an ambush on the corner of Charlotte and Oxford streets in northeast Port of Spain in September 2007.

Fresh was among those gang leaders who had signed a “peace deal” among themselves, at the then-Crowne Plaza Hotel in Port of Spain, none of them alive today, all of them having been gunned down in similar fashion.

That list includes Mark Guerra, Sean “Bill” Francis and Mervyn “Cudjoe” Allamby.

By his social ministry in the communities in which these men reigned, Fr Harvey would have walked the streets, entered the homes and the gathering places, preaching a gospel of hope, redemption and turnaround.

He was, and remains unafraid.

There has been an outpouring of commendation for him, words of comfort, encouragement and identification with his mission, from religious leaders across the spectrum, as well as political and civic leaders.

“We recognise Fr Harvey’s unstinting work among our citizenry, especially the marginalised and disenfranchised,” the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad and Tobago said.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
“We believe that the deviant actions of a few criminals should not deter churches and religious organisations from accomplishing their missional task, to spread God’s love and transform lives, or to deviate from their faith, values and principles.”

The outspoken Adventist preacher and activist, Pastor Clive Dottin disagreed with Fr Harvey that those who tied him up and robbed him inside the Church were “stupid little boys,” doing someone else’s bidding.

He said he had encountered a 15-year-old boy who told him he called the shots, presumably in his neighbourhood.

He said the attack was “meant to send a signal,” and that “whoever did it must be called to account.”

Large aura, but outside


But in the very community of Gonzales, where Fr Harvey works often out of an office opposite the Church, on Vincent-Brown Terrace, there are discordant sounds.

“If Fr Harvey was more of a helper in this very community, maybe that would not have happened to him,” one activist in a Community facility obliquely opposite the Church said on Friday.

“His aura is large, but that is outside of here,” I was told.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
“The blue building (the one where he has an office, opposite the Church), none of us knows what goes on there.”

This building is sandwiched between Leotaud and Agostini streets, two of the main streets with residences, houses built by the Port of Spain City Corporation, said to be shortly after World War II.

On Leotaud Street, to the north, most of the homes have retained their original architectural look, even with proud, impressive renovations and modernisations over the years.

Executive member of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), Jawara Mobota lives there.

Musician and bandleader, the late Joey Lewis used to live at the corner, before moving higher up the hill later in his life.

On Agostini Street, the look and feel suggest a different neighbourhood altogether.

This is where I’m told, “it is turning out people for the gangs.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
But some of them are trying. Not that they are good boys just yet, but they are trying,” this activist says.

In many cases, the situation is explained such that “you can’t really come out (of the life) if you wanted, because it follows you.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
There are borders within borders. To work with them, you have to decide to put your life on the line, because by trying to make a difference you get targeted.

“Some of these youths have grown up in such a way that they don’t trust polite society, they are not trusted by polite society, and they are not accepted in.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
They are still the jamettes.”

Steve Alvarez is a political figure, with an enduring ambition to become Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Things will get worse


He is leader of an outfit known as the Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago.

“It seems to me that nothing will change, as long as we continue doing the same thing over and over,” he said on this issue yesterday.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
“In fact, I can assure you that things will only get worse. The situation has to start with a sincere determination to deal with criminal activity. The police know who most of the criminals are. The guys must be given a stern alteration. Do this, or you face the consequences. The ‘this’ ought to be turn in your guns and take up employment.

“The government has to offer them opportunities for long term sustainability.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
But they don’t know how to do this. They must create opportunities in sports, agriculture, tourism and the maintenance of community infrastructure.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
But the situation will escalate as the government does not have a strategic plan for dealing with our youth.”

Lennox Toussaint is a Deacon in the Catholic Church, a long-standing stage manager of major cultural and artistic events, an executive member of the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association, and one who has deep roots in the depressed communities of east Port of Spain.

He was a leading figure in the Pinetoppers organisation which had headquarters in Pierre Lane, East Dry River, during the 1970s.

The incident, he said yesterday “shakes at the roots of our upbringing, and it must make our ancestors very confused.”

He said of Fr Harvey: “I deeply admire his response to the ordeal, and his making it up to Mt St Benedict afterwards,” to participate in a two-day liturgical seminar.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
“It certainly shows us how much work is still to be done.”

For his part, Fr Harvey holds to the position that he would love an opportunity to meet with his attackers.


© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

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