Signs are given not simply to be read but to be believed and followed. If they are directional they guide you to your desired destination. If they are warning or danger signs, they protect you from destruction.
He who sees, reads and ignores the signs does so at his own peril. The crime signs indicating our perilous social dilemma and the unhealthy psychosocial condition of our people have been with us for a long time.
Have we been following them or ignoring them?
I am happy that we have not totally ignored them, but we have not made a serious or urgent response to what they indicate. We have skirted the fringes, perhaps until recently.
Are SOEs & ZOSOs working?
The areas covered by states of public emergency (SOE) and zones of special operations (ZOSO) are clear attempts to deal with what has to be treated as an epidemic — this social disease called crime and violence. But we must seek to understand the cause of this social disease and deal with it from the root for best results, and so avoid resurgence or recurrence.
ZOSOs — as imperfect they may be perceived to be — are accomplishing some success by attacking some attendant factors that drive our crime and violence.
Are these enough? Should we continue, should we increase our assault on these factors?
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has added yet another limited state of emergency recently. Crisis epidemic times need tough crisis responses. The other factors need more, though. More means the resolve of both Government and critical sectors to find answers, and the willingness to do all that is necessary to see lasting change.
Crime giant not going away
Despite the ZOSOs and the SOEs; despite the lives being saved; despite the peace of mind it brings to some citizens of our high crime areas, the crime giant is not going away. It seems to be digging in its heels and sending a message that ZOSO can’t stop me; it may slow me up, but it can’t take me out!
This is one clear sign that the brazen, cold-hearted murder of Pastor James Johnson of the Church of God of Prophecy on Old Harbour Road in St Catherine is saying we must not ignore. The act caused the administrative bishop of the Church of God of Prophecy to comment:
“[It’s]A dark day in the nation. We cannot have prosperity in a nation where crime, violence and corruption are the order of the day. We cannot have communities shielding men who take life at will…the pain is too much. Too many young Jamaicans, too many children, too many seniors are dying prematurely because of criminality.”
The Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang said: “The invasion of murder into a church — a sacred place of worship — is reprehensible.”
These statements summarise the grave dilemma of the nation, and therefore the urgency for total commitment to defeating this giant we have created. But there are those who seem intent on ensuring that the giant is well fed.
Who’s feeding the crime giant?
The big gun and ammunition find at our wharf this past week is another sign we cannot ignore. It tells us that there are Jamaicans here and abroad who seem to have a vested interest in feeding our crime and violence giant. Who are they? These are not the gun toters and shooters we catch occasionally. These are the importers and providers. Who are they? I say again, as I have heralded in previous columns, if we do not deliberately target, apprehend, and charge these gun providers the giant will not die.
Another giant must awake!
The last few brutal slayings that have caught national attention and caused national abhorrence have been on individuals connected to the church. A clear sign to stir and awaken a snoozing church to wake up and engage so as to recognise there is a serious epidemic at its doors demanding its leadership to respond; demanding deliberate, forceful, strategic responses to stop the epidemic.
The formation of the Church of The Lord Jesus Christ began with a powerful statement from Him: …I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
If this is what we truly believe then it’s time the sleeping giant called the church awakens to help its nation defeat the active giant called crime and violence!
Will that sleeping giant awaken to recognise the vital role it must play in helping to lead the nation back to sanity, order and the foundation that will best enable the progress and prosperity so desperately being sought?
Platitudes and prayers not supported by works of righteousness — lobbying, confronting, challenging, rebuking, and applying pressure to the political leadership — cannot produce change.
Further, the church must ramp up community engagement, not lessen such initiatives at this time. The minds and hearts of the nation’s children and youth must be captured, taught, mentored, and channelled towards productive endeavours. The church has to lead in mobilising and organising communities to wholesome development and to resist evil influences. It must provide inspiration, hope, and help to fight the cause of justice. It must be that advocate for better opportunities for those who are disadvantaged. It must lead in pressing Government, not merely to tackle the fruit of crime, but to destroy the root to ensure stability.
The church approach, which represents the Kingdom of God, should always go for removing root causes. Jesus did not merely deal with the effects of sin, but conquered the cause.
I call again and I am demanding from the Church a public response to taking the lead in the action steps recommended by this column to tackle the crime problem at the root. If what has been proposed in my various columns is not suitable, then suggest a workable alternative, please? If there is no better present alternative, then use what is on the table or say why not.
I remind you of the premise and recommendations:
Given that the major felt root problem facing the nation is injustice from the effects of the created political tribal, garrison and donmanship cultures which are the primary facilitators of crime and violence, injustice can only be fought with justice, and justice needs a platform of truth. It is truth that sets free and heals the wounds of the pain of prolonged oppression and injustice.
The recommendation was for the Church to initiate and fund a truth for forgiveness-type commission not for recrimination, but towards peace — the essential environment for prosperity.
The church national was to take the lead in bringing the political parties together to create a level playing field to break and overturn the bed of crime by drawing a line in the sand and apply the Fresh Start approach. We need to be told why it can’t work or why the Church won’t do it, when national destiny is at stake.
We are also waiting to hear from the political parties why the fresh-start approach cannot work if they have no better suggestion. There was no response to the question on the vexing issue at the People’s National Party’s recently concluded conference. I will see whether there is one from the upcoming Jamaica Labour Party conference.
Seeing the signs?
I rejoice and applaud recent comments made by senators from both sides of the House sharing concern at the level and type of criminality plaguing the nation and reflected in the inked killing of Pastor James Johnson.
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith made a potent and instructive observation: “We have understood anecdotally that even among gunmen there used to be rules — babies, pregnant women, elders, churches were sacrosanct; violence should not be perpetuated against persons within these categories, or in these cases. But it seems that those rules don’t exist anymore. It seems that it goes without saying that everything is out the door.
If there are no barriers to violence then the State must assert extraordinary measures because it must be that Jamaica returns to a place of sanity and order. Senator Johnson Smith’s statement is another sign that someone is clearly seeing that our crime and violence have increased to red alert proportions. But will requisite action follow?
Government must see and act. The political directorate cannot only afford to just see the sign, but must be prepared to follow its directives and take immediate remedial and evasive action. Although the overall responsibility to solve the problem and ensure the safety and security of all citizens rests with the parliamentarians on both sides of the House, there is direct inescapable responsibility with authority in the hands of the party that forms the Government.
Many of the contributing factors to the crime problem will require medium- to long-term solutions — some short term, some the Government will need the help of various players in society, and some only the Government and political parties can resolve.
Our analysis and strategy must consider which solution or who best can solve each particular problem. Often we are looking to the wrong source for certain solutions.
Root up the beds of tribalism and garrisons!
Aspects of our crime problem, particularly and namely the root bed of tribalism and garrisons that incubates and causes it to flourish, can only be solved by the political parties and the Government.
Government, while it waits for the mid- to long-term solutions, which is not solely under its control, it certainly, with immediacy, can deal with the areas over which they have sole and direct control. Fact is, no Government to date has sought to lead the political machinery to remove what lies within their power.
The new-era Prime Minister Andrew Holness has to find the courage to break the tradition and walk where none has gone before by overturning the root bed if we are to realise the birth of the new Jamaica in our time. I firmly believe that when this root bed is overturned it will cause a ripple effect towards accelerated transformation. It will wake all who are asleep and drive them to change action.
This reminds me of when Jesus went into the temple not prepared to accept the status quo. He overturned the tables of the money changers and challenged them to remember and pursue the intended purpose for the temple. Radical action of bold leaders often spur radical change.
The conditions facing our nation and the demands of the future needs more than the ordinary. Extraordinary leadership is required. Jamaica has repeatedly demonstrated to the world that it is extraordinary. The extraordinary DNA is part of the Jamaican gene in all of us.
Herein lies my confident hope that we can and will beat the odds and see the turnaround in our nation. After all, you and I are here, the leadership is here, the great God of the universe is here with us. Together we can turn the tide and see our nation transformed in short order to the marvel of the world.
All it takes is for the new-era prime minister to see the signs and, with a single-eyed ‘Jamaica First’ vision, lead us away from the national destruction to which the signs are pointing. All it takes is for the new-era, newly appointed young leaders of the Opposition party to see the signs and with a single-eyed ‘Jamaica First’ vision lead their party and its followers away from the national destruction to which the signs point.
All it takes is for all of us to see the signs and, with new-era thinking, young mindedness, and rejection of the negative past do our part with a single-eyed ‘Jamaica First’ vision to build the new Jamaica, land we love.
Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.