Joseph Atherley on people, politics and the pulpit
Reverend Joseph Atherley knows something about the fierce urgency of now.
As one of the oldest members of the Barbados Labour Party pool of candidates to face off in the upcoming election, Atherley is keenly aware that is a critical time for the country, and a pivotal time for him and his party as well.
Being in the political wilderness these last 10 years has given Atherley a ‘Moses-esque’ view on the plight of those in his constituency. His vantage point as on onlooker into the state of affairs in Barbados further justify the heightened state of emergency he feels about the condition of his country.
“The problems we are facing now are far more pronounced and perhaps forebode more sinister outcomes for our country more so than before,” he says. “We’ve always had deviance in Barbados but it has reached proportions now where it is alarming. We can make reference to the blocks, to our schools, to what happens at certain sporting or entertainment events. What we do have now that is different than before is a matter of attitudes. There is a greater level of hostility, animus, and the stress levels are much more severe, and seemingly the capacity to resolve conflict without resorting to violence has diminished.”
Indeed for Atherley he sees the BLP as the only party to successfully lead Barbados out of its own proverbial Red Sea. While the Israelites may not be giving chase, he is keenly aware of entities like the IMF, looming economic instability, crime and violence that are threatening to overtake and propel the country under water.
“The Barbados Labour Party is now being called upon at this stage by history, by our people, to change the course of history for Barbados and take us to the next level,” Atherley said. “It can’t be business as usual.”
Atherley is among one of the longest tenured members of the BLP with morhan 30 years under his belt. While he has worked hard, he has always shrugged off his critics who say that the clergy has no place in the political realm.
“I feel very strongly that I am called to serve by God by serving people. I do that principally through my ministry at the church. I have always seen the political arena as an expanded platform. I believe that there ought to be separation of church and state at an institutional level and there is now. But in terms of the organic aspect of human development, human endeavor I can’t see how they could be a separation of church and state,” he said.
“Church ministry if we properly understand it is about helping to lift up people. But much of church ministry is about bringing man into right relationship with man and bringing man into a sense of proper perspective in life. Now if politics is not about lifting up a person up the socioeconomic ladder, then what is it? Jesus made it quite clear that he understood his commission and his ministry involved not only the spiritual aspects of human life, but also the social as well. If you read in Luke 4, you’ll see that Jesus wanted very much to change the lot of the poor, the oppressed and those who were categorised as captives.”
Similarly, Atherley has tried to help the poor and disenfranchised in his constituency. As a minister he helped to provide housing for many in his constituency, but he would like to do more.
“Housing is a problem in Barbados. When we were in administration under Owen Arthur until 2008 the problem of housing, especially house rebuilding and house repairs, especially for people faced with abject poverty, was a major initiative for us,” he recalled. “I was able during those 10 years to have 60 or 70 new houses built. Unfortunately this party has stopped that.”
With the decay and sense of hopelessness that Atherley believes it is imperative for the BLP to recapture the reins of power.
“I believe if we don’t capture this boat here this country will not be sailing,” he said. “This is the last boat out for us and I don’t know if one will come back in a long time. I cannot in my wildest imagination see Barbadians returning this current administration to power at this time. I believe they will turn again to the Barbados Labour Party as they did in the seventies when we were faced with the urgency of the global energy crisis. So we’re back here again and the BLP is here again and will take the reins of government and lead us through this.” (PR)
The above is a paid political broadcast sponsored by the Barbados Labour Party. The views and opinions expressed in this broadcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of the Nation.”