Governor General, Sir Elliott Belgrave, GCMG, KA.
Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas, it is a signal honour and pleasure for me to address you as we once again celebrate Christmas with fellow believers around the world and express goodwill and peace towards all men and women, believers and non- believers, at this the most special time of the Christian calendar.
During the past 12 months my wife and I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit many groups working in the Community to improve life for young and old alike. We have met people from all walks of life: from centenarians who have had the good fortune to live through some of the most momentous times of our history to new citizens who have come from other parts of the Caribbean and further afield but who regard this island as their home.
They bring their special skills and experience to enrich the fabric of our society. We have met school children singing in choirs, students and lecturers from the University of the West Indies, church leaders and congregations from all denominations and faiths, the elderly and the infirm.
We have met many from the private and public sectors, public servants, be they administrators, members of the uniformed or armed services, members of caring professions, local artists and performers.
We have met members of the voluntary sector whether it be the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the guides, the scouts, the Rotary or the Soroptimists to name but a few. Everyone plays their part in our community. We help each other strive to develop our island home through the many challenges which we face.
As 2012 draws to a close, you will recall that this is the year in which Her Majesty The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. The Diamond Jubilee was an important milestone in the life of Her Majesty. It was celebrated in the United Kingdom and in the other Commonwealth Countries in different ways.
Barbadians and visitors were afforded the opportunity in February to celebrate as well on the occasion of the visit of Their Royal Highnesses, The Earl and Countess of Wessex. There was a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament as well as a series of events to commemorate the occasion. It was a most splendid affair.
This was also the year when London successfully hosted the Olympics and Paralympic Games where many Caribbean athletes made us truly proud; we had the pleasure of sharing in the joy of Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, who won a gold medal for the first time. We salute the dedication and hard work of our athletes and their coaches including those who did not win medals on this occasion but who also brought credit to us through their dignity and sportsmanlike behaviour on the international stage.
The year has also had its share of misfortune and tragedy. Some disasters have been natural and some have been man-made — where we have conflict and civil war leading to the breakdown of societies.
We, in Barbados, have been spared the worse ravages of both types of disaster and must be thankful for that. Neighbouring islands, particularly Haiti and Jamaica, have been devastated by hurricane Sandy. Many of us also have friends and relatives on the East Coast of the United States which was also badly affected by the super storm. Some will have lost loved ones, family and friends, some will have lost jobs, homes and possessions.
Further afield, we have also heard of bloody conflict in the Middle East, Syria and parts of Africa. For many here and abroad Christmas will be subdued and solemn.
How bleak it must have been too on that first Christmas for Mary and Joseph when they travelled from Galilee in Nazareth to Judaea in Bethlehem the City of David where they went to be registered for the census, which had been ordered by the Emperor Caesar Augustus who was about to levy higher taxes on his people.
Mary was heavily pregnant and Joseph was unable to find anywhere for his wife to give birth but in a manger. One cannot think of a less auspicious place to bring a new life into the world but in a barn surrounded by farm animals. Yet from such humble beginnings came a man who would bring light to the world and be a Saviour to mankind.
The story of Jesus’ birth teaches us many things: humility, devotion to family, faith and
love. Mary and Joseph had one of the most important tasks, to raise the baby Jesus to become a man. It must not have been an easy task as they were not a wealthy family able to give their son the most expensive clothing or material goods. Apart from the theological significance of this child and this birth we can learn a great deal about family life from their trials. The need for parents to care and protect their children, the need for family to stay together even in times of adversity and to struggle on even when fate seems to deal you unkind blows.
It is at times like these that we pull together as a family. As a community we may not face such extreme hardships as others affected by natural and man-made disasters but we should nurture our institutions and community organisations to assist those less fortunate whether at home or overseas in our small way.
The solidarity we show at times of despair should be evident throughout the year and equally at Christmas when many are blessed with good health and largesse but others are alone, sick, or unable to enjoy the festivities as they would wish. We pray for all those in need of comfort and those who minister to them.
We should strengthen the bonds of our community, appreciate and continue to nurture the positive aspects of national life and culture which make us a beacon for pluralism and democracy in the region. The ability to listen to each other respectfully even when we disagree, to organise and hold free and fair elections without violence in the knowledge that no right thinking person would wish to see this beautiful country destroyed by such selfish acts.
These are vitally important matters which should be kept constantly in view during the coming months as we prepare for the General Elections. The generosity of spirit and wisdom to appreciate our differences as well as our shared humanity are features of Barbados that my wife and I have experienced and treasured as we have undertaken our new duties.
Our beloved country Barbados has just celebrated its 46th year of Independence. A stable government is one of the principal characteristics of our country from which all other aspects of our community flow. As we celebrate the birth of Christ let us re-dedicate ourselves to the virtues of family life, humility, faith and love. The message of peace and goodwill towards all men is a universal one which is shared by all peoples wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
Fellow Barbadians, at home and abroad, and visitors to our shores, on behalf of my wife and family and on my own behalf, I extend to you, very best wishes for Christmas. It is my earnest hope that you find good health, success and prosperity in the New Year and beyond. May God bless you all and cause the light of his countenance to shine upon you.
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