Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jamaica: The voice of the Roman Catholic Church has now been heard - it's no longer "a voice crying in the wilderness"

Church no longer 'a voice crying in the wilderness'
Anthony Gomes

The statement, "Genuine National Transformation", from the Roman Catholic National Justice and Peace Commission, carried as an advertisement in the Sunday Observer of June 6, 2010, and on the website, is a scholarly treatise of the tragic circumstances leading up to and surrounding the events of May 24 to restore law and order to the community of Tivoli Gardens, by neutralising the criminal elements responsible for the debacle.

The statement authored by the Archbishop of Kingston, the Bishop of Montego Bay and the Bishop of Mandeville, examines the sinister trends that for years have fostered the creation of garrison communities across Jamaica which have "threatened the moral and civil order of our nation".

The statement continues: "All loss of life in a situation of violence is contrary to a Christian ethic, but current events in Jamaica underscore the degree to which we have embraced and even cultivated a culture of death. We need to dismantle this culture of death and violence by intentionally creating a culture of LIFE and PEACE."

Embracing the "culture of death" had grown over the years as the society became numb - desensitised from watching the rising death toll, seemingly out of control, spread like a detestable plague across the country, culminating with a new record of 1680 murders last year. In addition, there were 241 police homicides, and 334 road fatalities, totalling 2255 persons who died violently in 2009! Citizens began to speculate that the country was out of control, either by malevolent design evidenced by absence of any aggressive, offensive response to the criminals, or by the inability of the government to deal with the disastrous situation, broadcast around the world via the internet.

"Like all Jamaicans who desire the good of our nation, we hope that recent events will be the occasion for deep reflection and for steadfast resolve through an agreed time bound programme of action to avoid similar national crises in the future." The steadfast resolve has to be inculcated upon both parties of the government that have to collectively, like it or not, work towards preventing a recurrence of these distressing events.

"Our neglect of this population, and their exclusion from participation in the ordinary benefits of the common good (education, employment, welfare), is a matter of serious social injustice. Worse still, their economic and social disadvantages have been manifested for political ends in a morally abhorrent and reprehensible manner. The present situation then is not a mere social aberration, but the product of an intentional social structure."

The manipulation of the underprivileged members of the society for political ends is truly "abhorrent and reprehensible", and cannot be allowed to continue in any shape or form. The private sector, trade unions and other members of civil society are adamant that the country cannot again be allowed to slip back into this sorry state of affairs. This has been made clear in the numerous press releases and statements appearing in the media.

However, not all opportunities in the press are available to associations responsible for expressing the views of their members, of which the Roman Catholic Church is one such complainant. Repeatedly, one reads about the silence of the collective "churches": Why doesn't the church speak out about the desperate and disastrous activities being perpetrated in our country? The Roman Catholic Church does speak out when it has something positive to contribute to the debate without meddling in politics, or misleading the faithful. One church bulletin stated, "Again, the Church speaks, but the press chooses to ignore our voice." Hence the church considers its voice as "a voice crying in the wilderness". The statement of the National Justice Commission is a cardinal case in point of the church speaking out in a manner not only to embrace its flock but the society as a whole.

"The old order - the way we conduct politics in Jamaica - must change." This demand has been echoed around the world, inspired by Barack Obama's call for universal change to the political architecture of countries. It seems that the recession has acted as a catalyst, which has ignited the attitude of people everywhere, that "enough is enough"! From now on it must be nation above party!

"These garrisons are all zones of exclusion, allowed to exist by a civil society tolerant of tribal politics. Private sector personnel, some of them good church-going businessmen, have made political contributions which have supported this evil system that is an affront to the dignity of the citizens in these areas. The culpability of these Christians who blindly support these political parties cannot be understated. It is imperative that our strategy for creating order - indeed a new one - goes well beyond the objectives of the present limited security operation. It will require the transformation of our social and political infrastructure. This present crisis is a window of opportunity to put in place a new relationship between politics and civil society."

The foregoing describes where Jamaica is coming from and where it must go, to redeem itself as a truly God-fearing Christian society dedicated to the betterment of all its citizens without fear or favour. The statement concludes: "The Roman Catholic Church places itself at the service of the nation to begin the process of our national transformation." The voice of the Roman Catholic Church has now been heard - it's no longer "a voice crying in the wilderness".

June 16, 2010