Christmas Message 2016 by Governor General of Barbados, H.E Sir Elliott Belgrave GCMG, KA
Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas, residents and visitors to our shores, it is a pleasure for me to address you at this time, as Christians around the World celebrate the birth of Christ, who we believe was born on 25th December thousands of years ago.
The story surrounding the birth of the infant Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem is well known. Jesus was born into a humble and devout family. Mary and Joseph accepted the word of the Arch Angel Gabriel that the child in Mary’s womb was the Son of God, and they raised him with love and care bringing up their son as all good parents do.
It was only when Jesus became a man and began to preach the gospel that the people began to come out in their numbers to see and hear him, and to marvel at his works. He performed several miracles. At this time we celebrate his birth and the selflessness and devotion of his parents who nurtured him to adulthood from the most inauspicious of beginnings.
Christmas is traditionally a time to make merry, rejoice, reflect on the events of the first Christmas and contemplate the New Year with a view to anticipating what the future holds for us. This year has not been without its challenges for many families in Barbados, especially those in Northern Parishes who experience great difficulties in getting water.
Serious efforts have been made by the Water Authority to relieve the problems with varying degrees of success. We experienced a severe drought in the country which has affected livestock and poultry adversely. The dry spell was happily broken when the Tropical Storm Mathew passed some distance away from the island. The rains came and brought much relief to Barbadians.
Just before independence there was another more serious deluge, heavier than anything we have seen for many a year – many homes and businesses were flooded. Thankfully no lives were lost. I hope that as we celebrate Christmas those who suffered most at this time have been able to recover from this unexpected setback, so they can enjoy the season in some comfort.
Events like these test our resilience and our ability to help each other and ourselves. Our emergency services and caring professions, deserve our especial gratitude for all that they do at times like this, to help people get back on their feet. Many charitable organisations and businesses also offer assistance in times of national crisis.
I am happy to state that there are signs that our economy, which was under pressure for some time now is beginning to improve. The forecast is that it will grow this year. Like last year our Tourism Industry continues to do well. It is my hope that conditions will improve further as the building industry picks up.
This year Barbados celebrates its Golden Jubilee of Independence. These celebrations climaxed on the 30th November. Many Barbadians from overseas and visitors were in Barbados at the time. A wonderful time was had by all. I was pleased to see the pride all Barbadians took in our achievements over the last five decades and I hope that together we can redouble our efforts to ensure that the next fifty years build on the legacy.
We were happy to host Prince Henry of Wales who was in Barbados for the celebrations to represent Her Majesty the Queen, who sent a message of congratulations to the Government and people of Barbados. Although the torrential downpours affected the schedule of events, all were successfully concluded. We should express our thanks to the organizing committee and their support staff for the hard work and organization which underpinned all the varied and imaginative events held throughout the year.
Who can forget the celebration of our seven Prime Ministers, the Reveal or the human chain link around the island? We were especially fortunate to be joined by the President of Guyana and ministers from other CARICOM countries such as the Bahamas who travelled to celebrate with us.
We in the Caribbean have strong bonds of culture, people and common heritage and through the turbulent times ahead, we must learn to pull together for the common good. We remember at this time countries like Haiti, who seem sometimes to suffer more than their fair share of natural and man-made disasters. We continue to assist our sister nations in the region in times of difficulty as readily as we celebrate with them their achievements.
The year was again very busy at Government House, as I resumed my visits to the primary schools, where I met principals, teachers and students. I hope the children enjoyed these visits as much as I have. I have now visited all the primary schools and I hope that our young children learn to aim high and work hard to achieve their dreams.
My visits to the homes of centenarians in Barbados have continued unabated, and it is always wonderful to hear their life stories as each has lived through momentous times in our island’s history. The young and the old have much to teach us in their enthusiasm, resilience and zest for life.
At the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen, my wife and I attended Her Majesty’s 90thBirthday Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London in June. We had a wonderful time. All the Governors-General from the Commonwealth countries were invited. Several of them attended. This provided me with an opportunity to meet many of them for the first time.
Internationally, 2016 has seen profound and sometimes surprising changes, which will affect us here in Barbados and in the region. Many may be worried as to what economic and political effects these will have on the region. Our politicians and public servants will devote a considerable amount of time in seeking to anticipate and prepare for the effects of these changes.
We as private citizens need to pay attention to what is happening around us, and remember that what we have in common is greater than what divides us. Our multicultural and multiracial societies can remain a beacon in troubled times of how societies can live in harmony.
The independent nations of the Caribbean will have to monitor these proceedings carefully, and seek to devise strategies which are fashioned to represent the interests of the people of the Caribbean remembering that we derive strength from unity.
Barbadians enjoyed the Olympic Games which were held this year in Brazil. We fielded a good team whose members gave of their best although they did not win any medals. We congratulate our sister CARICOM countries on their successes. I wish to place on record my deep appreciation to our athletes for their gallant efforts. I think that Miss Akela Jones stood out and has a great future ahead of her.
Now that the celebrations for our 50th Anniversary of Independence are behind us, my wife and I are looking forward with great anticipation to Christmas, when our daughter Susan and the children will be with us. As we seek to celebrate the birth of Christ, we should also rededicate ourselves to the virtues of family life, humility, faith and love. The message of peace and good will towards all people is a universal one, which is shared by all peoples wherever they may live and whatever may be their circumstances.
I regard it as a high honour and great privilege to be the Governor-General of our great country at this momentous and historic period in its development. I have endeavored always to seek to render service of the highest order. I shall be eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve my country at this level. I wish to thank all my fellow Barbadians for the loyalty and support shown to me and my family during my tenure as Governor-General.
It is my hope that this Christmas season will bring greater peace, less violence and less crime. That it will bring happiness, prosperity and good health to Barbadians, residents and visitors alike.
Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas, residents and visitors, on behalf of my wife and family, and on my own behalf, I extend to you very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. May Almighty God continue to guide us. May He continue to shower His blessings upon Barbados and its people now and always.
To download of copy of the Governor General’s 2016 Christmas message, you may click here.