Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Christian informers needed? - Pastors differ on the need for church members to share info on criminals

Published:Sunday | December 31, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Worshippers at the St John's Methodist Church in Montego Bay, St James.

The Reverend Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), has called on the local Christian community to mobilise itself into a conduit for information sharing in an effort to stem criminal activities in 2018.

"Perhaps the Church needs to come together and agree that what we need, in addition to prayer, is to encourage our members to declare a time of sharing [and] telling what we know," said Johnson.

He noted that while this might pit families against each other, church members need to be encouraged to share what they know, and the Church should be a part of efforts to take a stand against the 'informa -fi-dead' culture.

"Based on the size of our country and the fact that everybody seems to know everybody, you wonder why it is that we cannot uproot and exorcise this demon living among us. Believe me, somebody knows," he said.

He argued that the authorities should encourage the process by considering the establishment of an apparatus, such as a truth-telling commission, that would allow persons to share what they know.

But Johnson's call for Christian informers has not been fully endorsed by some of his colleagues, who fear that their members' lives might be placed at risk.

Pastor of the Majesty Transformation Fellowship Church in Majesty Gardens, St Andrew, David Chang, argued that church leaders should be more focused on building a relationship with the community in an effort to change persons from a life of crime.

"Me, personally, I work with the hot-head youths them in the community. I go out on the corner and talk to them," Chang told The Sunday Gleaner. "I encourage them to give up themselves because of the relationships I have with them," he added.




Chang, who is an ex-convict, said that at times, he encourages church members who are related to known criminals to report them to the police out of love, but he doesn't believe that this advice should be wholesale.

"You have to use wisdom, because we are living in a serious time," said Chang.

"You have to be careful how you deal with an issue like that as a pastor within your church, because you have a lot of ears around," Chang added.

Senior pastor at the Portmore Holiness Christian Church, Bishop Alvin Bailey, does not believe the Church should be placing particular focus on making such an appeal.

"Whereas I am for the fact that we are to be upstanding and reputable people, fighting crime from the church's perspective cannot be, as maybe other institutions and organisations, because we have to take into consideration the victims, the perpetrators of crime and violence, and the family and relatives of those. So there has to be some amount of sensitivity and wisdom that is applied to the process," said Bailey.

"If a woman's son is a murderer, she is grieved and she hurts and she is disappointed, so the church has to be sensitive to that aspect of it," Bailey added.

The pastor believes church leaders should continue to assist in the process of bringing in criminals, as they have been trained to. He would also love to see church members being mediators in an effort to reduce domestic violence and other forms of criminal activities.

"In other words, as an alternative to some of the repercussions, some of the revenge, to some of the reprisals, come and talk it through," said Bailey.