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An opportunity to help those who have gone astray

News day / In a release last week, Kambon said in a society saturated with news of brutal crimes, the robbery and assault of a man of the cloth caused a shock wave across the country. The RC priest was robbed and tied up last Monday by armed bandits at the St Martin de Porres RC Church in Gonzales, Belmont, where he had spent the night preparing for a seminar at Mt St Benedict.

Since the incident, Harvey says, he has forgiven his assailants.

Kambon said it was the location of the crime – a church, a place of worship – that accounted for the emotional uproar from the public.

However, he said violations by robbers of places associated with sanctity had long ago led to iron bars and electronics to protect many such places.

“The shock and anger provoked by this crime had to do with the society’s measure of the man who was tied and robbed. He was a priest, but not just any priest. It was Fr Clyde Harvey, known not only for words, but for deeds which bear witness to the sincerity of this nationally treasured human being.

“His words and deeds have communicated so deeply to many young men who were trapped in the state of mind of his attackers that some have changed their lives fundamentally. Many others who have heard his appeals and witnessed his caring, but have not transformed their own lives (or not yet), for various reasons, would not even think of harming him,” he said.

In fact, Kambon said if a delinquent was in a position to prevent what had happened to Harvey, they would not have allowed anyone else to do it. “While they still have to overcome the psychological and material pressures they feel from stigma, from social and economic marginalisation in the society, they hold Fr Harvey in high esteem because he speaks to their humanity, presents them with the hope of uplift,” he said.

Kambon said the committee was deeply saddened that “a brother with so much love and compassion,” one with whom they felt a close kinship, had to undergo such an ordeal. However, he said he knew Harvey’s faith, inner strength and commitment would ensure he continued on the path of reforming lives that needed to be touched by such a caring spirit.

“There are those who would see in his pain the justification for collective punishment of the community which they instinctively blame and similar communities they see in the same light. We suggest they consult with Fr Harvey about what may work without being led by guns and a spirit of revenge.

This may just be the moment for a broader consultation, which includes voices from the smouldering communities, to find a way forward, a path out of the downward spiral of violence destroying so many of our communities and potentially escalating into far more bloody confrontations between the armed forces of the state and armed gangs and individuals.” Kambon urged the population to find ways to overcome not only the internal sources of increasing violence, but the ways in which the wider society contributed to the despair and the low self esteem underlying the tragic situations. He said one must include the criminal behaviour of the enablers of the gangs, those for whom they sold the drugs and imported and supplied the guns, those who paid for “hits.” “While we cannot speak for Fr Harvey, we firmly believe that he would welcome a coming together of State and non-state actors with a commitment driven by a sense of humanity to resolve the escalating crisis,” Kambon said.

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