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'JFJ doing church's job' — says Al Miller

Rev Al Miller says church should lead fight against injustice

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 09, 2012    

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OUTSPOKEN Kingston pastor Reverend Al Miller yesterday criticised the church for allowing human rights groups to outdo it in the fight against injustice in the society.

Using local human rights body Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) as his reference, Miller said the church and not JFJ should be leading the charge.

"Jamaicans for Justice are doing what the church ought to be doing. It is not their call [but] I thank God for them," the pastor told his congregants at Fellowship Tabernacle during the Easter Sunday service yesterday.

"It is us, it is us who are supposed to be out there, not Jamaicans for Justice," he argued.

Miller's remarks were made after the church offered up prayers for the family of 26-year-old Socrates Johnson who was fatally shot by the police on Clifton Road off Chisolm Avenue on Wednesday. The reverend said the family of the slain man, who are members of his church, were still trying to come to grips with his death. He said he, too, was still in shock as he had spoken with Johnson just an hour before his death.

According to reports from the Constabulary Communication Network, Johnson who is from an Upper Waltham Avenue, Kingston 11 address was fatally shot by the police at around three o'clock. The matter has been reported to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and is being investigated by the Bureau of Special Investigations.

JFJ was among several civil organisations that mounted a peaceful protest outside the offices of the Ministry of National Security on Oxford Road about two weeks ago, to register its concerns about the increasing number of police killings across the island. Twenty-nine persons were killed by police during controversial operations last month, triggering outrage from citizens, JFJ and Amnesty International. The incidents also arrested the attention of Security Minister Peter Bunting.

In a discussion with the Jamaica Observer following the sermon yesterday, Miller registered his own infuriation.

"The ones who are charged with the responsibility for protecting us, cannot be the ones who are destroying us. Something is wrong," said Miller.

He made it clear, however, that he was not bashing the security forces for doing their job and was keen to point out that extrajudicial killing was just one area of injustice in the society.

"I am not into police bashing, because the police have a difficult task in a difficult society because of what we have allowed to develop," he said. "But at the same time, they cannot do right wrongly and we cannot encourage that."

The "we" he referred to extends to the wider society, but Miller, who headed the National Transformation Programme under the previous government, said it was the church's responsibility to fight injustice.

"The issue of justice is one of the main responsibilities of the church, because justice is one of the major pillars of society and because of our commitment to people and particularly to the poor and to the oppressed, we have to stand up and be a voice for justice [and] for truth," he told the Observer.

"We must be prepared to more than just talk about it or feel bad about it, we must be prepared to act," the reverend said.

"The churches are playing a fantastic role in many areas of society, but certainly in the area of justice, there is a lot more that needs to be done. There should be a stronger and more consistent voice against every form of injustice wherever it pushes up it's head," added Miller.

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