Praying for peace and integrity


Praying for peace and integrity


Monday, January 20, 2020

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Although his address was punctuated with applause, there was none when Bishop Conrad Pitkin, custos of St James, asked in his address at the 40th National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB), “Is it time for a truth and reconciliation commission?”

This question has come up repeatedly, and when I pointed out to a colleague that this exercise assisted in the healing in South Africa, she responded, “No way, Jamaica is a small society. We couldn't withstand such a thing.” Even if my colleague is right, thankfully, we still have Government and civic organisations to help us along the rocky path to truth and justice — the Integrity Commission, Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), National Integrity Action (NIA), and Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ).

Additionally, we cannot ignore the power that the Church holds. Custos Pitkin referred to the Church as “the largest constituency in Jamaica”, and urged his fellow clergymen and women to move out of the walls of their places of worship and into their communities.

Established denominations have been lifesavers and game-changers in social development and education. However, there are semi-literate individuals who have bought a dog collar, attached a cross on a run-down building, and declared themselves overnight bishops. A friend of mine described a rural area church that has opened near her. The 'parson' holds extended sessions and shouts garbled verses to his congregation on a sound system that is heard several metres away. One wonders how much of their scarce resources are extracted by him from these humble folks.

Here's hoping that the Jamaica Council of Churches will create a registry to ensure that the individuals who seek to establish churches are bona fide.

There are many critics of the annual NLPB, but I promise you, when they reach low points in their lives they will say and ask for prayers. God is the supreme parent of this our 7.7-billion human family. We are inexorably drawn to our Creator as a child to a loving parent. We give praise, not because God needs praise, but because worship humbles us, reminding us that we are but servants sent here to carry out God's work.

In keeping with the theme of the NLPB, 'Pursuing the Power of Peace', both the governor general, patron of the NLPB, and Custos Pitkin ended their addresses with the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…” We thank the committee, led by Bishop Stanley Clarke, and sponsors Victoria Mutual Foundation for persevering with this uplifting project.

Saving our sisters

May our prayers lead us to practical solutions for an end to the horrific violence against our women. The murders of three women in three days by their partners is a manifestation of cowardice and insecurity. An infuriating aspect of these tragedies is the practice of victim-blaming; that is, suggesting that the woman “must have done him something” to deserve her painful death. These troglodytes must be led out of the Dark Ages and made to understand that women have every right to make their life choices and never, ever deserve to come to physical harm at the hands of a jealous partner.

Woman Inc has renovated a shelter for battered women, but we need similar shelters throughout the island; one for each parish. It is easier said than done to tell a woman to leave an abusive man if she does not have a secure alternative. This column related the story of a woman who was living with a 'don' and when she tried to escape, he beat her and broke her arm. When she was in the hospital she contacted relatives in a deep rural area to hide her away. After a few days in the country she was alerted that a procession of BMWs was snaking towards her relatives' house. To spare them, she ran out and allowed the men to drive her back to her violent partner. He continued to abuse her until the day she heard that he had been killed in a shoot-out with the security forces. She ran out of the house with only the clothes on her back. She was finally free and, thank goodness, now lives a life of peace.

We are in dire need of more social workers to engage with communities for the promotion of harmonious relationships. The Ministry of Justice has been offering courses in mediation free of charge to justices of the peace and they are now being asked to give annual reports on our activities to ensure that we are fulfilling our mandate. State, Church, civil society, educators, let us join hands and help save the lives of our Jamaican sisters.

Agent Sasco brings hope

Jeffrey Campbell, the brilliant lyricist also known as Agent Sasco, is a proud graduate of the Hope Valley Experimental School, which has welcomed students of mixed abilities for decades. No wonder he has named his foundation Banks of Hope.

At a presentation by the Digicel Foundation last week he noted that the funds will support two water harvesting projects — one at the school and another at a nearby community centre. His talented wife, Nicole McLaren Campbell, is deeply involved in the work of the foundation. They are planning to build a music room and performance space at the school.

Also at the presentation were participants in the ACTS Consultancy Programme led by Dr Michele Meredith. These school leavers, who are seeking employment, were given tools to pursue their vocations in the culinary arts, electrical and plumbing works, hairdressing and welding. Campbell encouraged the youth to be focused and hard-working. We believe his song Winning is a classic confidence-builder.

AFJ serious about outreach

How uplifting it was to have a chat with Ambassador Sue Cobb recently after she and fellow board members of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) had an intensive retreat to create their five-year plan. The AFJ board comprises former ambassadors of the US to Jamaica and other philanthropists who have held delightful annual fund-raisers in Florida and New York.

Established in 1982, the New York-based American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) has donated over US$14 million towards projects for health, education, and economic development in Jamaica.

Ambassador Cobb and her family have also granted scholarships and for 20 years sponsored the Cobb Lecture Series, featuring mind-expanding lectures by Jamaican thought leaders. We are blessed to have such friends.

Chinese new year

Saturday, January 25, 2020 will herald the Chinese year of the rat. Dr Kai Meng Lui, immediate past president of the Chinese Cultural Association, shared some traditional good luck practices for New Year's Day. These include the wearing of red or bright colours to celebrate the occasion, shedding no tears, and preparing felicitous foods for your guests. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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