The past week has been a week of scare and care for the people of Guyana. It was scare, when the horrendous fire at the Camp Street Prison that engulfed both the physical vicinity of the prison and its psychological effects on people. It was care, because everyone cared for each other’s safety inclusive of the safety of the prisoners. In all this, I was specifically moved by two nerve-wrenching testimonies of cry of the mother of the slain prison warden, and testimony of the abducted taxi driver. In the former, a mother lost her promising and dedicated child and in the later, the taxi driver who was abducted by the fugitive prisoners would come home safe for the sake of the little child. According to the taxi driver, the fugitive prisoners let him go for he begged for the sake of his child. This suggests that the fugitive prisoners do have some humanity left in them but as we know, it is not properly harnessed hence; they have taken a path of gloom and doom.
Why does someone chooses a path of violence that eventually leads them to prison where there will be grinding of teeth and wailing within the walls? No one has clear answers, but we have theories such as, parents needs to nip in the bud, teachers need to ‘don’t spare the rod’, religious leaders need to talk about morality and government need to be responsible for the bad behaviour of the its citizens. Fyodor Dostoevsky expressed, “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” We live in a complicated society, which has myriad problems and mysteries, and those problems remain long to explode into something worse as it happened in the Camp Street Prison fire. “Keep in mind those who are in prion, as though you were in prions with them; and those who are being badly treated, since you too are in the one body” Hebrews 13:3. Every one of us must take responsibility for the failure of the society and not begin blame game, which are naturally the first and the foremost disposition. In other words, we tend to judge someone else for the failure. For instance, if a light has to be fixed in my house, do I blame my neighbour, someone right at my house, GPL or just get the light fixed? How do take responsibility for someone who has taken a wrong path? In order to answer that question, we need to delve deep into our own families, education system, job opportunities, church as a moral watchdog, and so on. Among all the above, family is crucial because what you sow, you reap. Most families work hard for an integrated growth of a person and most families succeed and many families also fail. In either case, families will have the satisfaction of doing their duty well.
Let me inscribe the poem written from the cell in Germany by pastor, theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Stretched out on my cot,
I stare at the grey wall,
Outside, a summer evening
That does not know me
Goes singing into the countryside.
Slowly and softly
The tides of the day ebb
On the eternal shore...
We the poor, the rich,
Alike in misfortune,
The good, the bad,
Whatever we have been
We men of many scars,
We the witnesses of those who died,
We the defiant, we the despondent,
The innocent, and the much accused,
Deeply tormented by long isolation,
Brother, we are searching, we are calling you!
Brother, do you hear me?