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.