Youths praise role of Church in restoring peace, hope - Education a sure way out of crime
Rockfort in east Kingston is well known as a hard, gritty, and, at times, gang-infested community. Its name triggers fear in the minds of people outside the mainly hillside community, a fear also shared by many of its residents.
While there were times when violence made it difficult for the Church to maintain a strong social presence, its work in at least one section of the community called Top Temple is being hailed by its young people as an oasis of peace and hope.
"For our community, the Church is a very important part of the landscape and the fabric of the people. They understand that it's impossible to say to a youth that he should simply give his life to God. They see the need to be good social agents in a place like Rockfort," said 20-year-old Hakeem Jackson.
He told an On The Corner With Unattached Youths forum in Rockfort on Thursday that the Church's role was clear and that the youths have found a way out of crime because of the efforts of the Church in the community.
"The churches here use a number of strategies to get the young men involved in the Church, and its policies of sports, educational programmes and other outreach plans have been a great thing. Because of this, we as youths here in Top Temple look at life differently," Jackson told the forum, which was coordinated by The Gleaner and Rise Life Management.
"What I realise is that the Church is not only interested in bringing the Word. They make sure we stay out of trouble. They know that not everybody is going to be a Christian right off the bat, so they bring programmes to keep us aligned with the Church. I believe strongly that these are keeping many youths out of trouble right now," he said.
Some residents in the community of Top Temple in Rockfort, east Kingston, have praised the Church for its support for education, which includes occasionally providing lunch money and bus fare to students whose parents find it hard to do so.
"The only way I feel that youths in crime-infested communities can get out of it is through education and a strong link to the Church. They must not be afraid to go to the churches for help," resident Hakeem Jackson told the forum.
Another community member, Sophia Wright, said that without the Church, social conditions in Top Temple would have been worse. She said that the church of which she is a member has, in the past, sought jobs for the youths as a means of keeping them out of gangs.
"That has paid off in many cases, and these young men have seen the benefit of church, where we not only cater to the spirit, but the temporal things that people need for day-to-day survival," stated Wright.