The Christmas Season this year will give us at least three clear holidays, and four for office workers. This would be time enough for rest and relaxation and to enjoy family gatherings, food and drink, and happy children and grandchildren with new toys. Not everyone, of course, will have these opportunities due to reasons beyond their control, such as the sick, the homeless, the deprived and the grieving. For those in unfavourable circumstances, it is hoped that the Season brings some relief and eases the burdens of life.

Christians welcome the Christmas Season as a time to give thanks and prayers for the Birth and Message of a Palestinian Jew named Jesus Christ. Since Christmas is also a festive occasion, many non-Christians have adopted the occasion to also celebrate the event. In Guyana, Hindus and Muslims join in with equal fervor. It is truly a national occasion. It is to be noted that both Hindu and Muslim holidays, though they can hardly ever match the widespread popularity of Christmas, are also gaining recognition across religions.

Perhaps the best part of Christmas, except for Christians the dedications of faith, is the food.  Christmas dishes celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of the original inhabitants of Guyana, those who came here involuntarily and those who came to work. Amerindian, African, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese and British, have all left their mark, some more than others, on our distinctive cuisine, much of which is rolled out at Christmastime. A with everything else, adaptations are slowly transforming that cuisine as a result of cultural imperatives. Pork has been eliminated from pepperpot by Muslims. And what many may regard as sacrilege, many Hindus make pepperpot with chicken.

Amidst the fun and festivities, in Gaza, part of the land of Palestine from which Jesus Christ emerged, Palestinians are dying in their tens of thousands in a genocidal frenzy from bombs, disease and starvation, deliberately delivered by Israel. His Holiness, Pope Francis on December 17 accused Israel of terrorism for the killing by a sniper of two women in grounds of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Pope said: “I continue to receive very grave and painful news from Gaza. Unarmed civilians are the objects of bombings and shootings. And this happened even inside the Holy Family parish complex where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick, or disabled nuns…Some would say ‘It is war. It is terrorism.’ Yes, it is war. It is terrorism.”  In Gaza the vast majority of now more than 20,000 deaths, being one percent of the Gazan population, have been women and children. Professor John Mearsheimer, one of the world’s leading international relations expert, say that Israel is on a programme of ethnic cleansing.

In Ukraine the war continues with no end in sight as thousands, including civilians, die. This war is at a stalemate as Ukraine’s offensive is petering out without much, if any, success. The time is right to stop the killing by a negotiated settlement to this dispute. Such a settlement was attempted in March-April 2022, but discussions were terminated by Ukraine, apparently on the advice of the West, on the promise to supply weapons to defeat the Russians. Now that it is clear that the Russians will not be defeated, and the US is finding it difficult to swing Congressional support for more funding for Ukraine, now appears to be the time for negotiations. The warring parties would be giving a gift to the world if the Christmas spirit can bring peace.   

It is truly remarkable that the message of Christianity is one of peace but that it is Christian nations and their allies, such as Israel in modern times, that have been responsible for much of the war and violence in the world. Jesus was described as the “Prince of Peace” (Isiah 9:6) which underscores the role of Jesus in bringing peace to humanity through his redemptive work. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises that conflicts must be resolved promptly. He said: “Settle matters with your adversary quickly…” Contributing to the pursuit of peace and reconciliation are Jesus’s famous advice to love your enemies and turn the other cheek. He said “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44); and “…if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39). It is therefore incumbent on those who support the effort to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people, as alleged by Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, to call for a ceasefire.

Families are not only grieving horrendous losses in war, but also individual losses of loved ones through illness or accident. My firm, Cameron & Shepherd, lost one of its most senior and valuable employees of 25 years service, 47 year old Anita Narine, in a shocking road accident last Tuesday by a speeding mini-bus. The grief of our partners and staff, and that of her family, husband, Deodat Narine of GBTI and children, Miranda and Josh, a teenager, have been inconsolable as, I expect, that of those who also lost loved ones in road accidents and in other ways. I hope, amidst the celebrations, Christmas brings some comfort to all in pain and sorrow.

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  1. Well said, in many ways. My father died Christmas Day when I was 16. For a lot of years Christmas for me was bittersweet. Until my children brought the Magic back. I’ve worked in refugee camps in Bosnia, oncological hospitals in Chernobyl, Ukraine and other places where the laughter of children had been silenced. We have a responsibility – that is, an ability to respond – and we must, in small and larger ways. Because if we lose the laughter of children, we have lost the world.

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