Not all rosy - Rose Heights' return to violence worries pastor
With guns again barking in Rose Heights, St James, Pastor Knollis King, who was instrumental in brokering a peace deal with residents seven years ago, is again a worried man. He fears that lawlessness is once more taking root in the community.
"We are having shootings again ... people are being killed again," said the distraught pastor, who heads the Rose Heights United Full Gospel Church of God and who was instrumental in the formation of the Rose Heights Covenant of Peace (RHCP) in 2010. "... hopelessness is again creeping in."
In an interview with The Gleaner earlier this week, he said that he was sensing a kind of restlessness in the community and that he feared that some of the youngsters, even those who previously had no gang affiliation, might get swallowed up in the renewed lawlessness.
In 2010, during a horrifying period in which more than a dozen persons were killed in less than a month, King challenged the residents to either join him in a move to restore law and order or he would stop burying the victims of violence.
With the residents accepting King's challenge, the RHCP was formed. The community quickly became the envy of other communities as the residents stood behind the tenets of the movement, which stated, among other things, that "no illegal firearms should be fired in the community".
"We had to do something. The community was bleeding, and we had to find a way to stop it," King told The Gleaner at the time. "I simply got tired of having to bury young people week after week and watching the pain of their families."
'Sometimes I feel like running away'
However, after almost three years without any murders in Rose Heights, the social programmes initiated by King and the residents to train and prepare young people for the job market steadily began to unravel as a result of the lack of external support.
Now, with things falling apart again, King is appealing to the various political representatives and government agencies to start making their presence felt in the community as according to him, Rose Heights is again on the brink of lawlessness and crying out for help.
"Within the past month, seven persons have been shot ... two of them died," King told The Gleaner. "I am out there daily trying my best, but like Luciano (reggae singer), I am doing my best to serve mankind, but sometimes I feel like running away."
Last year, St James was the nation's most murderous parish with a record 268 killings. The parish is off to a worrying start for 2017, with more than 30 murders to date.