Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Tribal wars cut - Inner-city youth say Prayer Breakfast achieving aim of ending political violence

Published:Friday | January 20, 2017 | 1:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Inner-city youth leaders (from left) Tyrese Taylor, Stephanie Prince, Don-Marie Thompson and Jessica Kirlew having a discussion about the 37th National Leadership Prayer Breakfast they attended at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew yesterday. Following the event, they participated in a special forum at The Gleaner’s North Street offices in Kingston.

The original objective of the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast has been met, according to four inner-city young people, who pointed to the relative calm and the absence of wanton killings linked to partisan politics in recent times, a stark contrast to the more than 800 people killed leading up to the 1980 general election.

It was that bloody and gruesome 1980 period, which many believe was primarily the manifestation of garrison politics, that spurred church leaders at the time to search for solutions to unite the country, particularly the leaders of the two main political parties. This gave birth to the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, which was first staged 37 years ago.

"The National Leadership Prayer Breakfast has accomplished its objectives. We see where our leaders are coming together. We see during election time when persons wearing the green shirts and the orange shirts hugging each other. So the country has come a far way," said 24-year-old Don-Marie Thompson, a resident of Mandela Terrace in St Andrew.

Thompson and three other young people were The Gleaner's special guests at yesterday's event to observe and experience the Prayer Breakfast and to share their thoughts.

"The last election was extremely successful as well, and I am absolutely sure that no one was killed in connection with it," added Tyrese Taylor, 18, of the Grants Pen community.

Speaking at a special forum at the media house's North Street Kingston offices, Thompson continued: "It's amazing when you compare [the] 2016 [general election] to [the] 1980 [general election]. That gave me hope to know that the Prayer Breakfast was birthed out of that horrible event. We have come a far way. We are not there yet, but I do believe that going forward, we will have a better Jamaica."

Jessica Kirlew, a 26-year-old resident of the tough Arnett Gardens community, also felt that tribal politics has waned over the years, suggesting that the intervention of the Church, through the annual Prayer Breakfast, has contributed in a meaningful way to more cordial relations among political leaders.

Far-reaching changes to the electoral process over the years have also been highlighted as a contributory factor to the decline in political violence and tribal politics.

The Reverend Dr Burchell Taylor's call for justice during his message yesterday resonated with Kirlew, who believes that justice should not only be for a certain class of people, but all Jamaicans.

Stephanie Prince, 26, of Olympic Gardens, also indicated that many Jamaicans are searching for this elusive justice.

"It was a wonderful thing just to hear him (Rev Dr Taylor) speak of justice because it is something that we do need because even in our justice system, there is some level of unfairness that takes place every single day."

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com