Priest: Nation is sick on how it cares for youth

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A large crowd including school children who accompanied the La Divina Pastora statue during the procession in Siparia on Sunday. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON –

VICAR General of the Port of Spain Archdiocese, Fr Martin Sirju, says this nation is sick in terms of how it looks after its young people.

Referencing a recent outbreak of school violence for his assessment, he also called for prayers for TT’s youth so they can be healed.

Sirju made the call while officiating at Sunday Mass for the Feast of La Divina Pastora at the La Divina Pastora RC Church in Siparia.

The statue of La Divina Pastora (the Divine Shepherdess) is carried during a procession along the streets of Siparia on Monday. It was the first procession of the statue since the covid19 pandemic struck in 2020. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON –

The La Divina Pastora procession also returned on Sunday after a two-year hiatus due to public health restrictions caused by the pandemic.

On the third Sunday after Easter Monday, Catholics celebrate the feast day of La Divina Pastora, also locally known as Siparee Mai, with a Mass followed by a street procession of her statue.

Sirju said the youth have been facing a myriad of challenges and needed avenues to talk and express their emotions, frustrations and concerns.

Because the youths believe there are no such avenues, they turn to negative and sometimes violent ways to express themselves.

“A child is not born violent, a child becomes violent. A child is socially determined by violence. There is a saying in psychology, hurting people hurt others, and that follows, ‘hurting children will hurt other children.’

HEAR MY PRAYERS: A woman prays during Mass on Sunday at the La Divina Pastora RC Church in Siparia. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON –

“And if we are going by newspaper reports, it seems that most of these children are from one class and one ethnic group and something is very wrong with that,” Sirju said.

“Most of them are boys. Researchers have said that during the pandemic there have been four times more suicide among males in TT compared with other Caribbean countries. It means something is significantly wrong and sick with our country and the way we look after our young people.”

Sirju added that no good will come from expulsions from the school system because such a step paves the way for young people to turn to crime and end up in prison…or dead.

“What these children need is a sense of family, positive affirmation and love. They need to know they are intelligent. All you have to do is find the right key to unlock their minds because nobody is dunce.”

Sirju said while Caribbean society seems violent in nature, it would be wise to remember this stemmed from a violent history, a violent church and violent colonial masters, but people are not born violent.

The Ministry of Education has recently identified 16 schools as high-risk and some of the root causal factors that contributed to indiscipline and violence in schools.

SUNDAY BEST: A well-dressed worshipper is seen deep in prayer during Mass on Sunday at the La Divina Pastora RC Church in Siparia. PHOTO BY MARVIN HAMILTON –

The discussion on school violence and finding ways to curb it is still ongoing among the relevant authorities including the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Youth Development and National Service, the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Gender and Child Affairs and the TTPS Community Police.

Apart from school violence, the country is also still coming to terms with the report released last week of a Cabinet-appointed committee, which highlighted shocking details of physical, sexual and psychological abuse meted out to children in the care of state-run and/or state-funded homes.