Vieux Fort Parish Priest, Kevin Murray, has defended his participation in a protest demonstration outside parliament Tuesday morning.
The demonstration was against the government’s multi-million dollar Desert Star Holdings (DSH) project in the South of the Island.
“I went as a concerned person who lives in the area,” the Vieux Fort Parish Priest told the Times in an interview.
Murray explained that there are many people who are concerned about how the proposed DSH project would affect their lives and livelihood.
“I wanted to stand with them,” he stated.
In response to observations that his presence might be construed as a breach of what some believe should be the separation of church and state, the Parish Priest said : “This is for the people; people who have rights and dignity and I am not sure that their voice is being heard.”
The Clergyman expressed the view that the church has a responsibility to stand up for people who are in need and persons who have rights but may not be heard.
Murray said for him, it is a moral issue.
He asserted that if homes and livelihoods are going to be destroyed, it is a moral issue that needs attention.
The Catholic Priest also responded to questions about whether his presence at the protest could divide the flock, in the event that some members might actually be in support of the DSH project because of the ‘obvious’ economic benefits they believe it would bring.
He told the Times:
“I think it is questionable whether those economic benefits are obvious first of all. In terms of the ‘flock’ as you put it, the Priest has to be a moral voice for persons. This is not a political issue for me, it is an issue of principle – it is not an issue of party but of preservation of homes and livelihoods and places where people can go; Sandy Beach in particular which is a wonderful place for families to gather. Young people gather there; local people gather there.”
Murray noted that without Sandy Beach there would be few beaches left for the people to gather.
“I think it is a moral issue. People are free to agree or disagree – that’s life,” he declared.
He observed that as he understands it, there would be an equine free zone that would prohibit people from having livestock within a three mile radius of what he called “this proposed destruction of land.’
Murray told the Times that the issues involved relate to beach access, persons homes, their livelihood, small business owners, the farming community and the country people who stand to lose a way of life.
Asked whether he will be present at future demonstrations that may be planned, the Catholic Priest who stated he has been here for five years, told the Times that he intends to continue contributing his voice to the issue.
“I think it is that important, that vital. I don’t know what will transpire in the future, but if I am available and can be there I will be there” he stated.
On the question of whether the Catholic Church would look favourably on such a move, Murray pointed out that Pope Francis is certainly a man who is for persons who are poor and on the fringes and margins.
He noted that the Pope is a man for the environment, having written an Apostolic Exhortation speaking of mankind’s common home.
“So in terms of our supreme leadership we have a fine example there of a person who is always on the side of those who are poor,” the Vieux Fort Parish Priest told the Times.