Not so fast Ma’am
CATHOLIC NEWS Sunday, July 1 2012
At a time when politics, and the present administration’s style of governance in particular, seem to dominate the headlines day after day, it is important that as a people we do not lose sight of the important things, that we distinguish between what are distractions and those things that are relevant to the true development of our society.
In the course of a week when the public was left to puzzle through the significance of the “reconfigured” Cabinet and what exactly the new Minister of National Security had in mind when he spoke about bringing back the “Flying Squad”, a story appeared about Kamla Ramcharan, a mother who was sent to prison for three years for burning the hand of her eight-year-old daughter on a tawah (a baking iron). It is alleged that the child stole money from one of her classmates.
In the first instance, it is remarkable that this mother was tried and sentenced in less than two weeks. In this case, unlike so many others, justice (if this is what it is) has indeed been swift. The magistrate is probably right in describing the action of the 29-year-old mother of four as “heinous”. For sure, burning the child’s hand was a cruel way to go about teaching her a lesson. However Ma’am, your punishment does not seem to fit this mother’s crime.
With her oldest child already 14, it is clear that this mother bore her first when she was still a teenager. What this frustrated unprepared-for-motherhood and very likely depressed young woman needed most was help and some compassion — not three years behind the prison walls.
This punishment for a mother with no record of previous criminal behaviour seems unduly harsh. Further, when one considers the likely challenges these children will face over the next three years, one may well ask, “who is being punished here — mother or children?”
In today’s Gospel, one story — the healing of Jairus’ daughter — neatly dovetails with another, the healing of a woman who had suffered with a haemorrhage for 12 years. The episode seems to indicate a particularly busy period in Jesus’ public ministry. Although pressed on all sides by the crowd, he knows those who deserve his help, seeing straight into the heart of those who reach out to him in faith. He keeps his heart set on doing the work he was sent to do. So focussed is Jesus on accomplishing the important things, he takes only Peter, James and John with him to Jairus’ house. When he gets there and some try to make light of his purpose he puts them outside so he could get on with the work.
In the case of Ms Ramcharan and others like her, it is important that we remember we are “wounded healers”, called to be instruments of healing, and that we do not lose sight of the values that really should define us as a people.