Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Trevor Edwards | Must we take to the streets?

Published:Wednesday | August 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The Government has taken the decision to widen the stretch of Barbican Road, about 1km from Shields & Shields to Fontana Pharmacy. This is supposed to be a mark of progress, as anyone who travels on this bit of road knows of the inordinate delays encountered daily.

At the same time, should progress always create dislocation, disturbance, distress, disrespect and disregard for the rights, needs and concerns of citizens?

The Barbican Baptist Church has been located at 106 Barbican Road for 97 years. The church has served the whole community. Currently, we offer spiritual uplift through our worship activities, homework centre for the children, preparation of GSAT students for exams, meals for the elderly and indigent (soup kitchen), as well as primary health care through our evening clinic. These are just a few of the activities that take place at the church. How does an open trench along the perimeter of our property, since May 16 (in the name of progress), facilitate the church's service to the community?

Rebuilding of a secure wall was part of the agreement negotiated with the National Works Agency (NWA). While the wall was being constructed, the church expressed concern about the quality and engineering integrity of the structure, but the concerns fell on deaf ears. The heavy rains that fell in April vindicated the objections raised and exposed the poor-quality work. This happened over three months ago.

Since then, the church has called, written, received promises from the NWA, but the gap is still there outstaring the stares of passers-by, as evidence of the respect given to the church and the high regard with which the church is being held.

We have been totally exposed and vulnerable, and the church is literally living on the edge. I have had to be restraining my members from going to the streets and creating civil disobedience. Even other concerned citizens who drive by have suggested that approach. Does it have to come to that? Our patience is waning.

 

Mini-precipice

 

We cooperated with the NWA, making the land available (not that we had a choice). All we asked of our public servants was that the disruption to the operations of the church would be minimised, that the level of inconvenience to the church would be reduced. The churchyard is in a mess when it rains; our parking space, which was already limited, has been significantly reduced. Children's lives are in danger, as we have to be vigilant that they do not go near the section that now has a mini precipice.

What concerns me most about the whole matter is the absence of the personal connection in the road to progress. The NWA has not, to date, had a meeting with the residents whose properties have been alienated for road expansion. We have no clear idea when this road is to happen. We have not had any acknowledgement from the agency since May 16, taking responsibility for the substandard wall that came tumbling down.

There is no evidence of sustained interest or urgency about rectifying the breach. This I find unacceptable. We are for progress. Nobody from this church or community would object to that elusive goal. Sadly, the route to progress has seriously omitted the human factor, and for this we are gravely disappointed, disgusted and completely demoralised, to say the least.

Whereas I'm sure there is a blueprint for road construction, it would be interesting to see if there is a protocol in place for community interaction. Roads do not serve themselves. Roads serve people, and there can be no true community progress where people's rights, needs and interests are disrespected or ignored.

- Rev Trevor Edwards is pastor of the Barbican Baptist Church. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and trevoredwards223@gmail.com.