Michael Abrahams | AWOL Christian soldiers
The Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in 2016 was both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the most lethal incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history. The gunman, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic pistol, shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others, before being fatally shot by police.
As a show of solidarity with the grieving LGBT community in the United States, their embassy in Jamaica flew the rainbow flag, the official symbol of gay pride, at half-mast. June was also Pride month, and the flag was being flown at other embassies, including those in the Philippines, Israel, Vietnam and Italy.
Church groups in Jamaica, however, threw a hissy fit. The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), which comprises heads of umbrella groups, and church, civic and business leaders, was quick out of the blocks to endorse Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte’s tweet accusing the embassy of being ‘disrespectful’. The group also quoted Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states that it is a duty for diplomatic agents of all signatory countries, to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state,” and that they “also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state” (Even though being gay, bisexual or transgender is not illegal in Jamaica).
The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (LCF) took things even further, with their president Helene Coley-Nicholson issuing a release demanding that U.S. Ambassador Luis G. Moreno “immediately take down the flag”. Reverend Al Miller was also very vocal in his opposition to the flying of the flag, referring to it as a “deliberate act of provocation intended to advance a political agenda”.
More recently, JCHS was up in arms about another issue. The original cover of the 2017 Yellow Pages depicts a reggae/dancehall scene with scantily clad women dancing with men at a street dance. The publishers of the directory were hoping to celebrate Jamaican music, but the Christian coalition crashed their party. Chairman Dr Wayne West, said "We have challenges with our young people in terms of the values, the conduct that they are being exposed to.” As a result of intense pressure, the company was forced to print an alternative cover.
Now, in 2017, we are seeing one of the most sordid child sex abuse scandals ever to hit the country. A Moravian pastor was not only charged with having sex with a minor, but it is also alleged that he had sex with one of her siblings, and possibly fathered a child with another. An email chain also revealed that the president of the church received complaints about the pastor’s behaviour at least two years ago, but kept him behind the pulpit. Subsequently, two bishops in the church received an email from a woman who claims that two Moravian ministers penetrated her at age 15, the first taking her virginity. The president and the vice-president of the church resigned following this revelation.
The JCHS are self-appointed spokespersons on sexual morality in this country and are outspoken on issues they deem to be ‘sinful’. The question is, where are their voices now in the midst of this child abuse scandal involving clergy, and an apparent cover-up by the church? Where are the marching footsteps of the Christian soldiers and the battle cries of the prayer warriors? The same people who endorse a law which prescribes prison time and a criminal record for even consenting adults who engage in a particular sex act deemed to be wrong, have little to say not just about the apparent subculture of abuse in a church, but about the sexual abuse of our children throughout the country, which appears to be an epidemic.
Recently, in the space of 24 hours, out of seven women of whom I enquired about sexual molestation in childhood, six revealed that they were abused, half of them before the age of ten. Also, during the previous week, two women told me, on separate occasions, that they were among a group of ten women discussing childhood sexual abuse, and that only two women out of the ten were spared.
Interestingly, the JCHS spoke about respecting laws and interfering with internal affairs regarding the U.S. Embassy rainbow flag issue. So, where are their voices when erect penises are thrust into the orifices of children, breaking the law, traumatizing them and ruining their lives?
Just what is the agenda of this coalition of so-called Christians? The abuse of our children is far more destructive that flying flags and depictions of people dancing to indigenous music. The church has a lot of influence in this country. West and others like him helped to organize and mobilize tens of thousands to gather in Half Way Tree in 2014 to protest repealing the buggery law, and again in 2015 to protest same-sex marriage (even though the topic is not even up for discussion in our country).
Church groups have also been very vocal regarding abortion, sex education school curriculums, casino gambling and flexi-work weeks. However, perusal of the JCHS Facebook page reveals that their last post concerned the celebration of gay pride and their condemnation of it, while in the penultimate post they demonstrated their disapproval of the rainbow flag being flown at the U.S. Embassy.
Interesting, isn't it?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: *The above article has been amended. It was initially submitted on Sunday, January 22, 2017, and after being published on Monday, January 23, 2017, it was brought to my attention that another newspaper published a statement by the JCHS on Saturday, January 21, 2107, after I completed my research for my column. In my original article, I stated that the JHCS has been silent. While I maintain that, in my opinion, they do not channel enough energy into speaking out against child abuse, it would disingenuous of me to state that they are silent. I owe them an apology for this.