Pastor's Desk - The Royal Visit - Forgiveness and Reparation

Apr 03, 2022

The recent visit to the Caribbean of Their Royal Highnesses Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, to the Caribbean, and Jamaica, Bahamas and Belize in particular, brought mixed reaction.

Jamaica is a hospitable and polite country and we know how to make our guests feel welcome. Especially as the royals were visiting to cement their ties with the Caribbean and to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. From this point of view this may have been a timely visit for the British Monarchs as they shore up their presence and support in the Caribbean, especially in the wake of another Caribbean Country Barbados recently dumping the Queen as head of state and becoming a Republic.

The visit may also have been seen as timely from the Jamaican perspective as the calls to our government to become a republic and sever ties with the British monarchy are getting unbearably loud.

Colonial legacy 

The British monarchy seemingly sees no problem in continuing this charade of maintaining good relations with former colonies of the so-called British empire, without paying enough attention to the products and consequences of this historical connection. A relationship that has been characterized by victors and vanquished; political stability and sophistication on the one hand, and political instability immaturity on the other. Economic advancement on the one hand and persistent poverty on the other hand. Social confidence and identity on the one hand and social discontent and cultural imitation and uncertainty on the other hand. Britain has some of the best educational institutions in the world allowing access for its own citizens and fulfilling the dream of many across the world, while Jamaica continues to struggle with an embarrassingly high illiteracy rate. Britain’s National health service is one of the best in the world, while Jamaica and the Caribbean continues to struggle with a health service that is in need of emergency surgery.

We cannot deny the consequences and products of this colonial relationship, hence when Jamaicans call for reparation, and justice, not handouts, there is no place for Britain to say hush, we are deeply sorry for your pain, but we are not responsible for what our fore parents did, even if we are benefitting from their actions.

There is no doubt that there is a need to repair this heinous breach which has impoverished the Caribbean people for over five centuries. The call for reparation and an apology from the British people is justified and understandable.

That is why a royal visit would create mistrust – what do they want from us. It is not so much what they are coming to give but what more do they want.

It also stirs up memories, bad memories of the past and the association with the Brits. Let us not be ungrateful as some would say, as the Brits gave us their language which is useful currency today. They gave us the Westminster system of political democracy, but left us too poor to make it work well for us. But the big question is, how do we heal from all this pain?


Will reparation heal the wounds of colonialism and its attendant dysfunctions? It may make some people feel better and would serve the cause of justice, I believe. 
Reparation could lead us to feel we should get more and the demands that offended people make may never end. Zacchaeus knew he had defrauded people and engage in reparation when prompted by the spirit of God and his encounter with Jesus. It would be nice for Britain to have such a conversion and the initiative for reparation came from them.


What about forgiveness? It is no doubt that the Caribbean are the offended people and the ones who would be called upon to forgive. But would Caribbean people want to go there? Would the same conversion that led to reparatory action on the part of Zacchaeus, not lead to forgiveness on the part of Jamaicans and the Caribbean? We can’t demand forgiveness but we can offer it. When our eyes are opened, when we are not only thinking of what went wrong that needs to be put right, and which may never happen in the way we expect, forgiveness can be a creative option.

I like the words of Lewis Smedes on this topic. He says, “When we forgive, we come as close as any human being can to the essentially divine act of creation. For we create a new beginning out of past pain that never had a right to exist in the first place. We create healing for the future by changing a past that had no possibility in it for anything but sickness and death.”

Could it be that we have become victims of the concept that the victimizer must make the first move? When we forgive, we are saying that none of us can change the past but, we can make a difference in the present. When we forgive, we are being truly Christlike as we are embracing the hurt, but not the hostility, embracing the rejection but not the retaliation, embracing the pain, but not the anger. In trial, Jesus said to Pilate, “you would have no power over me”. (Jn 19:11) On the cross Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do”. Does the Jesus model count in our discourse over British empire and colonialism in the Caribbean?

Which component of the teachings of Jesus instructs us to wait for the enemy to forgive before we take the initiative? May God help us to be in the world as Christ has been for us.