Fix the family, fix Jamaica! - Muslims pull together interfaith group to address social problems
They adhere to different religious teachings, but participants in last week's interfaith conference put on by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Jamaica in Old Harbour, St Catherine, agreed that Jamaica needs to fix its broken families if the country is to tame the crime monster.
"If a man lives with a child and a woman, and during pregnancy and after birth he does not provide for the child, it is like the man has killed that child. You have killed that child physically, morally and spiritually," argued Idrees Ahmed from the Ahmadiyya Muslim movement in Jamaica.
"Killing does not mean you are stabbing the child. If you don't feed and educate the child properly you are killing him, and you are the one who is going to suffer," added Ahmed, as he argued that broken, fatherless homes is often a catalyst for Jamaica's criminals.
"You have destroyed that child and now he has no option but to go into the street where he forms the roots (of crime). But when you take good care of that child: you feed the child, you educate the child, you introduce that child to the fear of God, it will be very difficult for him to go out into the streets," added Ahmed, as he addressed the gathering of Christians, Muslims and Rastafarians inside the mosque in Old Harbour.
For its third annual interfaith conference, participants of different genders were allowed to sit beside each other inside the mosque to seek solutions for the island's many social problems.
This year, crime, violence against women and children and broken homes were the topics of discussion.
Organisers say the conference was aimed at countering the negative impression some have of Islam, and for persons of different faiths to work to fix the island's problems.
The Reverend Adrian Ellis, from the Breakfree Healing Pentecostal Church, argued that the father is the head of the household, and must be quick to defend his household and his children's future.
"Any form of disrespect, insult or anything that you see, please correct it before it gets out of hand. These things can break the family and sometimes it does not come together.
"Sometimes it is only some good prayer and fasting that can bring it back," said Ellis, as he urged fathers to abandon desires for vengeance, games of chance and substance abuse which may inhibit his abilities.
"These are the remedies for church and society, and it starts from you. You can't fix me and I can't fix you. You only can fix yourself. When you are fixed as an individual, you can fix the family, and if the family is fixed then the nation can be fixed and the world can be fixed," added Ellis.
In the meantime, Acarya Giitisudhananda Avadhuta, representative of Ananda Marga (Path of Bliss), which preaches actualisation of an individual's full potential, said Jamaicans need to accept their imperfections as humans and work towards helping each other and building a better country.
"If you love yourself you can't hate others. When you hurt somebody God cries. We kill each other too much and it has to stop.
"If you elevate the mind then you can heal the body. This is the human nature," said Avadhuta.
Rastafarian Heru Ishakamusa Menelik, president of the Rastafarian Innity Council, pointed to poverty as the highest push factor for the breakdown of families in Jamaica, and urged the Government to do more for inner-city families.
"There is unequal sharing of the country's resources. Ninety-nine per cent of the crime is committed by people from the inner-city communities. When you look at the broken families you have one mother and her children with no father.
"In most cases, the father has been killed in either gang war or political war and it is the mother alone. So the children will go astray," he argued.