Covid-19 seems to have replaced Christmas as time to give and share, and somehow it seems more appropriate.Whilst Christmas is more joyful and traditional it has become somewhat commercialized, but giving in the time of Corona is driven by a more heartfelt need to make other people feel better.So it’s no surprise that if perchance you went to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception last Saturday you would have crossed Father Rassool and Father Yakub in your path, suitably seated in front of the altar sandwiched in between two men who are generally closer to God in the form of Catholic Bishop Denis Viehe and Father Lonnie Adrienne.
These two modern day Apostles were an unlikely pair sitting under the gaze of the Virgin Mary, given that one has possibly not gone near a Church for decades (forgive us Lord if we are wrong) and the other is a Muslim of long standing who would have never addressed such a crowd in a Catholic church in normal circumstances.But hey, this is the new normal, and more hands on deck the better. And when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
THE NEW FATHERS
Father Andre Rassool, who has run one of the most successful car rental businesses in Seychelles, and Father Gafoor Yakub, a successful international Economist from the long-standing trading Chaka family, were venturing into new territory, bringing hope to the faithful that listened to them attentively during these horrid times.
Theirs was a mission of true compassion with practical advice –if ever there was a time for “Leve Debrouye” this is it -and they gave their advice and coaching as fervently and liberally as priests would hand out the holy Eucharist during Communion.
Strangely, as they went about their business, it suddenly began to feel that this is really what going to Church should be about –not a place for a litany of recitals from a Bible that few people can relate to but rather a string of useful advice on how to make a living and share in hard times. This is the kind of service we could look forward to going to.
This convocation was a followup to a successful trial meeting which the pair had done a few weeks earlier at the Anse-aux-Pins Church of St. Michel, and then decided to carry their message all the way to Victoria.Father Rassool, for example, spoke of the merits of fraternal collaboration such as people getting together in all districts to revive the noble traditional art of producing Cinnamon, long considered an occupation for poor labourers, (or “fanm zournen”), and true to his word, instead of passing round the collection plate for money donations that is common at mass, personally offered to con-tribute financially in such a venture in order to motivate people to consider it.Besides the Cinnamon project, Father Rassool evoked other business ideas that could be started in and around the house such as potted plants for sale, using left-over wood, and maybe even selling Chilies in jars.
COOK NEW IDEAS
In what has been described as “an uplifting and motivational address” that would generate in today’s terms as much interest as the Sermon on the Mount, Rassool called for the congregation to revive dormant ideas and cook new innovative ones, and nurture a way of life that calls for “what can I use at home to make ends meet?”. He said that he was prepared to make a donation through the parish, and is quoted as saying: “I don’t want anything in return. My idea is to meet you halfway making sure that our contributions make a return.” Father Yakub on the other hand took a wider view, as an economist would. He tackled the wider economic implications of Covid, touching on business uncertainties, and a drop in sales revenues and business cash flow. “We’re starting to see a serious increase in the cost of living with daily expenses going up.” He also cautioned people who were not taking Covid seriously and continued to spend on unnecessary luxuries. He advocated that on a national level we should cut-down on unnecessary imports and avoid wastage. “We have to conserve our limited forex resources. This is the time to be prudent and start saving”, he urged.
Rather drastically, to some, Yakub even advocated that Government should restrict the importation of non-essential products by reintroducing import permits as a simple administrative, non-tariff measure for a short period at least until the end of the year. “If import permits are not feasible then duties could be increased on non-essential. Imports”, he proffered. Yakub further called for a reinforcement of the habit of saving for a rainy day, because people have been too used to getting handouts, as well as what he called, “hands up” policy where “we show and teach people how to work, how to fish, how to grow food”. For our part at The Independent, we can really get use to this wandering pair of Seychellois businessmen doing the rounds of the parishes across the islands to spread their message to the whole of Seychelles, and may it gather momentum.Who knows, perhaps in these despondent times of Covid it may even give the faithful a new fervor and sense of hope.