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Jamaica, our identity

Published:Wednesday | August 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Richard Ho Lung,  diary of a ghetto priest

We already have an identity, but we do not know it. We're like a wild orchid with graceful lengths of flowers in the rainforest that simply are what we are: beautiful, but without self-consciousness.

What we don't know is easily lost or given away cheaply because we take it for granted. Jamaica and the pearl of great price; Jamaica and its exotic flowers in the mountains, Jamaica, our music and drumming; Jamaica and its strange orchid people - growing naturally, freely, beautifully - only to be seized by strangers.

We don't know who we are; we don't know what's inside of ourselves. We will lose our souls - if we do not grasp our own inner riches and own up to our God-given inner being.

I was curious as a boy born in the countryside of Richmond, St Mary. Who are these lovely people swathed in smiles, chatty and friendly, on the move but never in a hurry. What are those bamboo trees doing gently waving in the sky and wind? Why are the African tulips just blossoming - for what purpose? And the mango trees full of fruit in the wild with no one to eat them?

Rivers, rain and sea - everything glistering gleaming studded with diamonds from the sunlight.

Everybody, everything in the Jamaican countryside pronouncing, 'God! God! God!'

At age 12, I discerned Christ. Everybody was talking about Christ - the higglers, the farmers, the teachers, the children, the mamas and the papas.

When we bathed in the aluminium pan, our nannies were humming softly, "What a friend we have in Jesus." When we misbehaved, we were chastised in Jesus' name. When we skipped rope, it was done to rhymes about the Lord.

Then the telling of the stories of the feeding of the 5,000, the walking on the water, the miracles of Christ's love for the sick and the poor, then His terrible crucifixion, and His forbearance.

I was hurt deeply by His pain and suffering, this Son of the Creator, this Jesus who loves me so deeply and gave me everything.

Christ's value

My inner soul responded to Christ, and now I seek only to serve Him. He is the depth of Jamaica's music and kindness. He is the foundation of our identity, our humour, our optimism and our dynamic drive for meaning, purpose and evangelisation. He is our gentleness, our sternness, our confidence, our strength in suffering, our struggles on our way to grace and dignity as a people.

We must not lose Him. Not for the highways, foreign clothes, foreign music and technology, and advanced but godless education and values.

We don't know it. But the dynamic element in the Jamaican personality - in our athletes, our music and culture, in the best of our political leaders and intellectuals - are rooted in Christ.

Our self-assertion and confidence come from Him. Our God and Saviour who has given us so much has also sustained us all these years.

I have one fear: That we will sell out to foreign gods. I pray that we will know who we are, where we come from, and where we are going, carrying at all times Jesus at the depth of our souls.

Father Richard Ho Lung is founder and superior general of the Missionaries of the Poor. Email feedback to and