National Friendship Day in The Bahamas will be celebrated on Wednesday, November 27. It’s a day for everyone to go out of their way to be kind, helpful, respectful and friendly to everyone they see. The Bahamas has been known as a friendly nation. However, for the past 20 years, it seems as though our demonstration of friendliness has diminished.
Painfully so, since Hurricane Dorian, some people have become even more disrespectful, cold and verbally violent, especially toward persons who are a part of the at-risk population — foreigners, and in particular, Haitians, and those who are, or who are perceived to be, illegal migrants. Some people have called radio talk shows to vent this anger and bitterness with insensitive language of disgust and hatred for this population. Our nation cannot survive with this kind of hatred and display of disrespect.
On one hand, we are to have standards for immigration and find ways of removing or preventing all illegal immigrants into the country. However, on the other hand, we are to be people of compassion, respect and dignity. This is why on this upcoming National Friendship Day, the emphasis should be on being friendly and kind to all immigrants and Bahamians alike. While the government agencies should do their part in preventing illegal migration, we as a people can do our part by being respectful and kind to everyone who resides in our country.
One of the theme songs for National Friendship Day over the years has been “One Love (People Get Ready)” by Bob Marley. He wrote this song out of a need for his country, Jamaica, to live in peace and not in war. True, that intent was a little different, but the theme is so apropos today.
Here are a few lines from the song: “One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right… I’m pleading to mankind (one love, one heart).”
Dear readers, let’s make peace and not war. Why is there so much hatred being spewed out of the mouths of many? It is so ironic that while many are “angry” at the Haitians and others, they forget how our nations are intertwined. They forget that the first people to arrive in The Bahamas were “Lucayans, an Arawakan-speaking Taino people, who arrived between about 500 and 800 A.D. from other islands of the Caribbean” (Wikipedia). They forget that from over 150 years ago, the Haitians and Jamaicans helped build our nation. They forget that our country has been a melting pot of nationalities for centuries.
Ironically, some of the Bahamians who are verbally angry at the presence of illegal immigrants in our country would easily overstay their time in the United States when they travel there. That is not to condone illegal migration but instead remind us to be intelligently informed about our own state of mind and intent.
On this coming Bahamas National Friendship Day, I am calling on every resident of The Bahamas to go out of their way to show respect and honor to everyone —even the illegal migrants who have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian. I invite every church, business institution and educational system to find ways to display friendliness on that day. Don’t forget that there are many Haitians who are legal in our land, and who have perhaps lived here all their lives, and are now worried about their destiny. They are hearing the hatred.
Imagine, many who are spewing hatred would be surprised when they examine their own ancestry line and discover that they have a little Haitian or Jamaican blood. Why are we shooting ourselves in our own feet?
While supporting the need to squash illegal migration, we can still demonstrate compassion and respect to those living here who are now bewildered, confused, frightened and lonely. Many of them are homeless, hungry and afraid. On National Friendship Day and beyond, be friendly to them. Churches can open their doors and give them a free meal on the day. Businesses can find ways to celebrate their presence on that day.
Please, let us not forget that Haitians are human beings also. They are not dirty animals and scavengers. They also have rights. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commission, human rights violations against migrants can include a denial of civil and political rights such as arbitrary detention, torture or a lack of due process, as well as economic, social and cultural rights such as the rights to health, housing or education. The denial of migrants’ rights is often closely linked to discriminatory laws and to deep-seated attitudes of prejudice or xenophobia. Let’s not be found guilty of prejudice and xenophobia.