Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Protecting our kids – Lent and beyond

Published:Tuesday | March 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

What have you been giving up for Lent? While the traditional Lenten disciplines of fasting and acts of sacrifice may have their place, how might we exercise some more actions that benefit our human community in Christlike ways?

The children of Jamaica are increasingly vulnerable to the selfish, brutish, beastlike ways of men who have been cradled, nurtured, and sustained by a culture in which many respected and revered individuals believe it is all right for a man to rape his wife. Such is our society with its pious displays of fasting, prayer, and various religious observances.

Whether or not we realise it, this matter far exceeds any government capacity to prevent the minds of people in a society which knows only too well that man haffi have gyal anytime him want. Legislation and security personnel cannot address the values and attitudes of a society whose thinking has become warped based on sickening cultural narratives.

How do we address the reality of human trafficking in a country where many of the patrons of this industry pay under cover, and wear innocent faces at church on Sabbath and on Sundays, and wield the arm of authority and correction in the boardroom on Mondays?

We need a fast from selfishness to being a more caring society, where everyone's children are my children, and mine are yours. More contexts such as parent-teacher associations, Sunday schools, Sabbath schools, citizens' associations, and other civil-society groups, must get involved with spreading the value and message that teach love and respect for every child in this country.

We need a fast from sexual selfishness. We need more teaching, where church and school and society spread the word among men that every and any child in your presence is an opportunity for love and protection. If you cannot trust yourself, never spend time with children alone.

Persons in positions of sacred trust and authority must respect and protect their revered opportunity to work closely with children. Parents should beware of trust that is bought. A sugar daddy who is generous from his pocket may be generous from other areas of his pants.

Maybe we might save some of the Bible stories at Sunday and Sabbath schools and talk honestly with the children about respect for themselves, and empowering them with information about how to beware of sexual predators. Teach them, too, that if a girl becomes pregnant, she does not have to panic or hide, but that she deserves respect and care. Teach them that a boy who has been raped remains a boy.

Do we realise that Jamaica tops the Caribbean with the increasing HIV rates? Do we realise young women are among those with these increasing rates? Are we aware of the dynamics informing the connection between these young women and those older men from whom they contract the disease, and why?

 

Don't misuse the Bible

 

Let us fast from any of the dogmas or doctrines or biblical views that present a conflict with how we exercise compassion and care to the fullest. Christian societies have in the past used the Bible to carry them through the practices of slavery, racism, child abuse, misogyny, and other prejudices. How are you using your favourite religious text? Are you inspired to love and protect or hate and destroy?

Did you see that video of the gay young man being murdered - that unfortunate circulation of a fellow citizen of Jamaica being stoned to death? Having looked reluctantly at this, I can no longer see the stoning and beheading of other persons in other parts of the world as foreign to my homeland. Mind you, this is quite biblical and we do have a strong Bible culture.

We need love and respect for all, and especially for the most vulnerable among us. If we cannot start with our children, the post-Independence project called Jamaica may as well cease.

But we will not lose hope. Lent speaks to hope. Lent recognises that, out of self-denial, and death to sin, new life may indeed rise again from the ashes of past failures and mistakes. Miserable, confused, selfish lives have the potential to be transformed into productive, enlightened, and kind hearts of love. A rights-based approach to every Jamaican citizen or resident, beginning with every child, will engender a new dawning for peace, safety, and the well-being of all.

My heart aches for the children who will be trafficked or murdered in Jamaica by the time this piece is published.

- Father Sean Major-Campbell is rector of Christ Church in Vineyard Town, St Andrew. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and seanmajorcampbell@yahoo.com.