Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Baha'i Faith wants a voice at the table to help solve crime

Published:Friday | November 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Ian Allen/Photographer From left: Checkkar Lee, Baha'i Faith’s resource person for Caribbean, Junior youth Spiritual Empowerment Programme; Denise Tulloch, secretary Local Spiritual Assembly, Baha'i Kingston; Oscar Effiong, auxiliary board member; and Stacey Mitchell, chair of the National Spiritual Assembly.

Members of the Baha'i faith in Jamaica believe that they have a part to play in helping to reduce crime and violence in the country, but revealed that after proposing their ideas and plans to various schools and organisations, they were stigmatised because of their faith.

The Baha'i Faith originated in Iran in the mid-19th century. In less than 200 years, it has become a universal faith in every country in the world, with believers from virtually every national, ethnic, religious and tribal background.

In reflecting on their 200th anniversary, Checkhar Lee, resource person for the Caribbean and the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment, explained to The Gleaner that the programme caters to persons of all age groups and has persons being trained to become mentors in the various communities with a focus on moral and intellectual development.

He said, however, that the faith-based community has received serious opposition.

"It's a programme that has worked in Colombia, as it has helped with crime- and drug-related issues there," said Lee.

"You'll be talking about it (the programme), and based on the rumours that they hear, they basically just put it in a box and sideline it. Even in some cases, you have persons who listen to what the programme is about, they love the programme, they just don't like where it's coming from."

He added, "We went to a high school in St Thomas and we proposed the programme to them. The guidance counsellor loved it, but said they can't have it because it is coming from the Baha'i faith. The feeling was that we are trying to turn the students into Baha'i, but that's not what the programme is about."

 

IT AFFECTS US, TOO

 

Stacy Mitchell, chairperson of the National Spiritual Assembly Baha'i of Jamaica, said that they, too, are affected by the out-of-control crime rate and believes that as an organisation that is geared towards unity and humanity, they are more than capable of getting involved. She also emphasised the need to fix the root issues.

"We have ideas and plans, and what we are saying is to give it a chance, look and see if it works," said Mitchell.

"You have this widespread loss of trust in institutions, not just in Jamaica. For example, the justice system, the police, the politicians, religious organisations, with some justification, and so those issues have to be addressed. You can't just say poverty is causing crime. People are not criminals because they are poor, people are criminals because of a lack of values. So the thing is how do you address values, and you can't wait until somebody is a big hard back person."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com