Fri | Dec 13, 2019

August Town urged to ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ for peace

Published:Friday | May 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) presents the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation to president of the August Town Peace Builders, Kenneth Wilson, at the awards ceremony held on April 25.
Residents of August Town, St Andrew, march for peace.
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The August Town Peace Builders group is rallying the community to 'Get Up, Stand Up' against divisive criminal elements and bolster the fight for their right to a peaceful existence.

Disappointed but undaunted by the recent flare-up of violence in the eastern St Andrew community, the group, headed by Kenneth Wilson, is committed to working tirelessly to reduce conflicts and create a culture of peace.

In fact, Wilson said that efforts will be intensified.

"We have launched an initiative called Get Up, Stand Up because we want to let persons know that the gunmen in the community will not change unless we force the change through using our numbers," he stated.

Wilson is making a fervent call for law-abiding members of the community who want to make a difference to partner with the Peace Builders.

DEFENDING THE RIGHT

TO LIVE IN PEACE

"If we can put together all the like-minded persons in August Town on one page when we are going to talk to the youths or to say 'end the violence', it will have a greater impact than just a few Peace Builders would," he said.

"We are building that movement where we get up, stand up and defend our right to live in a peaceful community and defend the God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of us must surrender those rights."

He added, "Not all of us are brave, but during the challenging times, leaders have to act, and leaders have to step out proud and lead. And that's what we are doing."

It is this passionate commitment to a cause that has earned the August Town Peace Builders the Prime Minister's Medal of Appreciation for Contribution to Nation Building.

One of eight recipients in the category, Wilson describes the honour as "unbelievable".

"We just didn't believe that this was possible. When I received the call from the Office of the Prime Minister, I froze for a couple seconds because it's something that we didn't expect. We appreciate it," he exclaimed.

Wilson was joined by members of his team in accepting the honour at the awards ceremony held on the lawns of Jamaica House on April 25.

... 'Every conflict has the potential to take

life if not handled properly' - Wilson

Founded in 2003, the August Town Peace Builders group operates on the principle that quick intervention can serve to de-escalate violence and save lives.

Group leader Kenneth Wilson conceptualised the initiative while participating in a course with the Summer Peace Building Institute at the Eastern Mennonite University in the United States in the 1990s.

Armed with knowledge in areas such as trauma healing, restorative justice and conflict transformation, he returned to Jamaica and immediately identified key members of the St Andrew community who would serve with him to engage youth and intervene to prevent all levels of conflict.

Since then, Peace Builders has managed to diffuse numerous conflicts.

"When we have the word that there is a conflict, we try to get involved to diffuse it before it escalates because we understand that every conflict has the potential to take life if it's not handled properly," Wilson said.

He attributes the effectiveness of the August Town Peace Builders to the fact that the members have managed to gain the trust and respect of the community.

"One of the things that is key about the Peace Builders is that we are consistent with our principles. We don't waver, we don't take sides, and we call a spade a spade. We know that once you are consistent in your principles and [you are] honest, there will be some level of understanding and appreciation from even the gangsters," he said.

EARNED SUPPORT

OF POLICE

Wilson said the group has also earned the support of the police, who see its work as critical in neutralising tensions and conflicts among residents.

He stated that the group receives positive feedback from the community while on the streets, as well as on social media platforms, and members are encouraged to continue their efforts.

"We believe in what we are doing, and we believe it is effective, and we believe that it saves lives, so we will continue," he shared.

Wilson is calling on private- and public-sector support and the partner-ship of the Church for its operations and the imple-mentation of programmes.

"I always tell people that one man can make a difference. One man can make an impact, so we have to get people to understand that each one of us can make a difference, and if you put each of us together, that will make an even greater impact," the August Town Peace Builders president pointed out.