IN the wake of the surging murder rate and the recent killings of two policemen and a clergyman, local pastors are calling on Christians to help find solutions to the crime problem, instead of separating themselves from the world and thinking they’re exempt from crime.
“Don’t just trust God and leave yourselves careless,” said Bishop Everton Thomas of Emmanuel Apostolic Church, while his colleague called for Christians to support the security forces.
“Christians need to become more involved in supporting the work of the security forces. In dealing with crime, we must encourage our members to participate by providing information. We know the risks involved, but there are opportunities or avenues through which information can be shared with the security forces, through which we are not putting ourselves at any undue risk,” said Reverend Gary Harriot, secretary of the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches (JUGC).
“Much of what is happening happens because people feel that they can get away with it, and they have made us so afraid that we will not speak. But it is not helping us, and therefore we have to find a way of mobilising people and encouraging people to become more active in terms of passing on critical information to the security forces,” he added.
Thomas explained that being a Christian does not exempt anyone from the cold, harsh reality of being murdered, but it remains important for people of faith to “lift up their heads and represent Christ”.
“We need to let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and be led to glorify our father in heaven. My message to Christians anywhere is to live, love, and demonstrate a character of Jesus Christ that people around us can see and know that there are still people who believe in justice, who believe in integrity, who believe in honesty, and who believe that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
However, he added: “Lock your car and lock your house. Be careful. You don’t have to walk around in a constant state of fear, but the reality is this is the situation we face all around us. It has happened to neighbours, it has happened to other family members, and it is getting closer and closer to us. We can’t live our lives in total fear. Go about your business and be careful. Teach your youngsters to be vigilant and guard their surroundings.”
Meanwhile, outspoken head of Fellowship Tabernacle, Reverend Merrick ‘Al’ Miller, said there is a breakdown of morals and values in society, and the church must ask itself how it has contributed and what it will do about it.
“The whole issue of crime and violence is telling us that the society has a serious problem that must be addressed, and the church has a critical role to play because the root of violence, the root of crime is a moral problem,” Miller said.
“All of this is a call to the church, and I think that we must now engage the process in dealing with the root problem because it is affecting us across the board. The whole society is vulnerable to what is happening, and so it is an issue we all have to tackle.
“I want to say to Christians that if you sit and do nothing, then change will never come. We are called to engagement because it is our responsibility and our duty to care. We must care about what happens in our society, what happens to others. If we care enough, we must do something about it, and that means involvement and engagement to find solutions to the problems.”
The JUGC, which represents an estimated 99 per cent of the island’s Christian community, added in a statement that some of our people have become so depraved that taking the life of someone for money or some other material benefit is a non-issue for them.
“Too many of the families of our nation have seen grief on account of the murder of their loved ones. The JUGC calls upon all well-intentioned citizens to make 2016 a more peaceful year; reaching out as peacemakers and by making a decision to support the efforts of the police in bringing criminals to justice. The JUGC calls upon the police to act professionally while relentlessly pursuing those criminals who are making life difficult for our people.”
The police high command has been seeking information relating to the murder of two policemen who were brutally slaughtered as they played a game of dominoes at a shop in Poor Man’s Corner, St Thomas, last Tuesday night. Fifty-two-year-old Corporal Kenneth Davis, who was once employed as a bodyguard to former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, and Craig Palmer, a 35-year-old constable assigned to the Denham Town Police Station, were at the establishment when they were attacked by criminals carrying high-powered weapons.
Also, last Wednesday, Glenmuir High School teacher and pastor, Audley Coleman, was killed at his home in Toby Heights, Clarendon. Police said Coleman, who was in his late 50s, was getting assistance to repair a door which was damaged during a break-in on Tuesday night when he was shot by someone on the outside.
“Is there a message in it? Is God trying to get our attention?” Miller asked. “It (attacks) is certainly speaking to the fact of the problem of crime and violence in the society. The same level of conviction [as in former years] is not present because of the moral and spiritual decline in the society.”
He said it is the sad reality that crime and violence, the monster created by our political system, remains out of control and all citizens are vulnerable.
“I call upon the church and citizens of goodwill to pray and work for love and peace to reign again in our nation. Let us demand a united approach to governance with fresh hearts and minds; persons with proven integrity, whose allegiance to God and country is greater than their alliance to a party. One of the warnings I have been giving for years is that the monster, if not conquered, will in time turn on its creators. It is beginning to happen. The evidence is before us. It is time for radical change. It is our only hope.”
Harriot added that Christians must keep faith and recognise that much of what is being seen is the result of issues that we have not dealt with sufficiently as a society.
“How we shape the mind and the development of our people; how we inculcate values and respect for each other are things that, as Christians and a church, we have to pay keen attention to. Many of our people have become wayward. It’s not the case of the majority, but we know that youngsters who grow up in a home where they were not shown love and care are more likely to become misfits in society, and as Christians we must pay particular attention to what happens in family life in Jamaica.”
To counter the problem, he said the church must also look at how it provides opportunities for people’s development.
“If people are not constructively engaged — and we often say the devil finds work for idle hands — they are more likely to become involved in antisocial behaviour. So, as Christians, we have to pay attention to what’s going on in society and see how we may respond to help make the society a more tolerable environment and provide opportunities for people; education and employment opportunities,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fellowship Tabernacle has already found a way to help tackle the problem, having launched a ‘Live Love’ campaign in November aimed at going into volatile ‘hot spot’ communities to meet face to face and ‘reason’ with the citizens.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes like it does conventional tobacco products. However, it has warned of possible health risks. So far, though, evidence is limited on what exactly e-cigarettes contain and whether those chemicals are safe, particularly in terms of cancer.
“There haven’t been many good lab studies on the effects of these products on actual human cells,” said Jessica Wang-Rodriguez, one of the researchers, in a news release.
In this latest study, the researchers created an extract from the vapor of two popular brands of e-cigarettes. They then used the extract to treat human cells in Petri dishes. Compared with untreated cells, the treated cells were more likely to show DNA damage and die.
The exposed cells showed several forms of damage, including DNA strand breaks. The familiar double helix that makes up DNA has two long strands of molecules that intertwine; when one or both of these strands break apart and the cellular repair process doesn’t work right, the stage is set for cancer.
In fact, the affected cells were more likely to launch into apoptosis and necrosis, which lead to cell death.
“There have been many studies showing that nicotine can damage cells,” said Wang-Rodriguez. “But we found that other variables can do damage as well. It’s not that the nicotine is completely innocent in the mix, but it looks like the amount of nicotine that the cells are exposed to by e-cigarettes is not sufficient by itself to cause these changes. There must be other components in the e-cigarettes that are doing this damage. So we may be identifying other carcinogenic components that are previously undescribed.”
The findings reveal the importance of regulation for these e-cigarettes. More specifically, it shows the compounds in these electronic cigarettes may be just as harmful as regular cigarettes.
Source: Killed and Buried?
ESTHER Cunningham says she has been complaining to the police for over eight years about what she strongly believes is a murder that took place on her sister’s property in Spanish Town, St Catherine, but her reports have fallen on deaf ears.
The 70 year-old told the JamaicaObserver in lucid detail about the activities she observed one Thursday on the property which is owned by her sister and which she shares with other people. Cunningham says she did not see an actual killing, but all day she watched the movements of the men she thinks are involved, and afterwards witnessed a man she knows well, covered in blood and cement, at a communal standpipe trying to wash himself clean.
“I was there all morning and I saw some happenings that were kind of strange. I saw young men running and dodging… I closed the front window and opened the side one to the door. I saw two young men run down to the shop and another two young men in the yard. I felt as if something was going to happen because of the suspicious behaviour,” the senior citizen remembered.
She said that despite her apprehension, she ventured out of the house and went to collect her pension payment at the post office.
“When I was coming back in, at the side of the church, I saw two barebacked young men going into the yard – one tall, one short. When I reached the gate, I saw one of the men coming from up the road with an empty wheelbarrow and he went through the gate,” Cunningham said.
She said the men negotiated with each other whether they would carry on with their activities in her presence, but she pretended to be oblivious to their movements.
“In that environment you see and you don’t see,” she remarked.
Cunningham said suspicious activities continued throughout the afternoon with the men going back and forth with bags of cement. At one point she said she heard knocking and what sounded like digging and concrete being broken. She explained that because of how close together the buildings are, she could clearly hear anything taking place inside a neighbour’s house.
“You can stretch through your window and taken something from a neighbour through their window. It is very near,” she said.
She said after the sounds had quieted down and she was certain the men had left the premises, she went outside, but did not go to the apartment where she had heard digging sounds coming from, but observed that the door to a tenant’s apartment was partially open, although the man was not expected to be home.
Cunningham claims that later in the evening she heard some of her neighbours discussing what she already suspected was a murder, and by later that night those suspicions were confirmed when she saw the tenant, whose door she had seen open, washing at a tub in the yard.
“I went out and I look into the washtub and see that it was bloody water. I saw cement pebble on his face; his clothes and hands and hair were covered with cement,” Cunningham said.
But her fears go even deeper because she suspects that the alleged victim was a relative who had been visiting from overseas. She has surmised from those conversations and others that she said she overheard in the ensuing months that the killing had been done elsewhere, and the body brought to the property and buried.
According to Cunningham, who told her story in a steady, sequential manner, she has been going to the police from 2007, including to the Police Commissioner’s Office and the National Intelligence Bureau, but a statement is yet to be taken from her. She alleged that at one point she was told by a female officer that she would not be taking a statement because she “don’t want to get any gunshot”.
“I’m not mad, I’m not foolish, [and] I’m not afraid because I trust my God,” she said. “I want to find out the truth about the person who was brought there. I can’t have any peace of mind until I find out if it’s my brother.”
In the meantime, officers from the Spanish Town Police Station say they are familiar with the case, but that Cunningham may be in need of psychiatric evaluation. They stated that a team has gone as far as to excavate a site at the premises, but no evidence of a murder was found. The police say they are still willing to visit the area with a special team to carry out further checks.
A Puerto Rico policeman fatally shot two high-ranking officers and a policewoman on Monday following an argument and hostage taking at work that temporarily shut down the station in the U.S. territory’s second largest city, authorities said. The suspect was immediately placed under arrest.
The suspect, Guarionex Candelario, held a female lieutenant, a male commander and a policewoman hostage in an office before he killed them, police spokeswoman Mayra Ayala told The Associated Press. She said authorities were about to start negotiations with the 50-year-old suspect when the victims were killed. She said police did not yet have information on a motive.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla told reporters that the suspect was injured during the shooting and remains hospitalized. Padilla declined to say what kind of injuries the officer received and how they were inflicted.
“This took us completely by surprise,” Col. Hector Agosto said in a quiet voice at a press conference while still wearing a shirt stained with blood, explaining that he tried to help the victims. “We are a family. I am trying to stay strong.”
“This is a very tragic situation that appalls us all especially because it occurred during the holidays,” said police spokesman Axel Valencia.
The shooting occurred inside the lieutenant’s office at the police headquarters in the southern coastal city of Ponce. Authorities evacuated the station to investigate threats of a possible explosive device at the station, but they did not say whether anything was found.
Police said at a press conference that the suspect previously had been stripped of his weapon but received a psychological evaluation nearly two years ago and his weapon was returned. Authorities declined to provide any other details, saying the investigation was barely starting. Candelario had been with the department for 19 years.
“Ponce is in mourning,” Mayor Maria Melendez said in a statement. “May God give the family members of the police officers involved the strength, fortitude and serenity to absorb this news.”
Ayala said the suspect worked in the anti-drug division. Officials said the victims were Lt. Luz Soto Segarra and Cmdr. Frank Roman, both 49, and 42-year-old policewoman Rosario Hernandez. Soto had been with the department 23 years, Roman 28 years and Hernandez 15 years.
Soto’s husband also was a police lieutenant, said Jose Cruz Martinez, vice president of the Puerto Rican Police Union, adding that they had been his friends for 15 years.
“They were both excellent people,” Cruz said in a phone interview. “They were always supportive of their coworkers.”
Cruz said he and his wife would occasionally go on motorcycle road trips with Soto and her husband, who lived in the nearby town of Yauco. He said Roman was originally from the western town of Mayaguez.
“He rarely had any time off,” Cruz said of Roman.
Valencia said Roman was named Commander of the Year for Ponce in 2014.
It is the largest shooting of its kind in Puerto Rico’s history. The last shooting at a police station on the island occurred in September 2007, when a police sergeant in the southeast town of Yabucoa killed his supervisor after an argument about work scheduling.
Puerto Rico’s police force is one of the largest in a U.S. jurisdiction. The troubled department is undergoing a 10-year federally mandated reform after U.S. prosecutors accused officers of illegal killings, corruption and civil rights violations.