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Bishop Ratteray: we’re becoming immune to violence

Former Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, the Right Rev Ewen Ratteray

Former Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, the Right Rev Ewen Ratteray has expressed dismay over the public’s “desensitisation” to the repeated loss of young lives.

Bishop Ratteray said he feared it would take a child to be killed in the crossfire before Bermuda wakes up to the fact that 28 men have been shot dead since May 2009.

Condemning a lack of empathy over deaths in the black community, he said there might have been a more serious reaction if a white man was killed by a white man. He added that the rate of road deaths — more than 120 since 2006 — further illustrated a lack of care people have for life.

Bishop Ratteray spoke to The Royal Gazette as he marks the twentieth anniversary of his consecration as the first Bermudian and first black Anglican bishop in 1996.

Reflecting on how the island has evolved during those two decades, he said: “You get marches on Parliament all the time for political reasons, but you get no marches and protests when a young man is shot down in cold blood.

“We are becoming immune to it. It affects us, but only for a short time. We have been desensitised in many ways.

“We are not driven to do anything except wring our hands and say how sad it is. I suppose I’m equally to blame for that. In America, the situation is different; they have placards and protests. Nothing happens here. Condolences are sent by politicians. Tomorrow the sun shines.

“We need to be much more concerned about the persons who are killed and the families.

“I have a feeling, and I hope this never happens, that when a child is murdered — maybe by accident, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time — then we just might develop a more concrete, real empathy.

“If a white man was killed by a white man, we might see another reaction. I don’t understand what’s driven black men to this: it bothers me no end. A life is a life is a life.

“It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated, as I don’t know what to do.”

Last Saturday, Patrick Dill, a 26-year-old father of two, who is believed to have had no connections to Bermuda’s gang culture, became the first gun victim of 2016.

“Young people have a disregard for other people’s lives, let alone their own,” Bishop Ratteray said. “Even driving on the road, you feel like you are taking your life into your own hands.

“We have to make sure that our young people, all our young people, are taught right from wrong and shown a better way of dealing with conflict.

“If you have a problem with someone, you don’t have to hit them, shoot them or knife them.”

Some believe many young black men join gangs because they feel a lack of belonging in their own homes.

“Dysfunctional families perhaps are to blame for young men seeking an alternative family,” Bishop Ratteray said. “But no matter how good a family is, there are no guarantees.

“You do your best and hope for the best in terms of your own family. I suspect not everybody has done their best. When they have not done their best, these kind of things can result.

“There’s always hope. You never give up. I guess the victories are small ones: one person at a time. We’re not going to have a wholesale solution where everybody all of a sudden stops misbehaving.

“You do all you can: our children, our friends’ children, try to keep them on the straight and narrow and hope for the best.”

He called for “ordinary people” to take action, rather than leaving it to the Church.

“It’s not about leaders spouting off and doing this or that,” he said.

“It’s the man or woman in the street who are the church, who can do more, reaching out to those who are vulnerable.”

Last week, Bishop Ratteray celebrated his consecration anniversary, as well as the 50th anniversary of his ordination, with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity.

He said he took pride in advances towards unity during his 12-year tenure, which included an apology for the Church’s participation in slavery.

But he recalled people’s surprise five decades ago when they learnt he was becoming a priest in a church that had been segregated.

“One of the reasons was that the best way to change the Church was from within, not from outside,” he said.

“I wanted to bring a greater degree of unity within the diocese. That was my chief aim, so that we could work more closely together. I achieved that to some degree.”

He paid tribute to Canon William Manning, the former Canon Residentiary at the Cathedral.

“He was the one who encouraged me to think about becoming a priest, both by his example and his words,” he said.