United Church makes bold declaration on crime, corruption
The 41st Synod of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) convened at SeaGarden Beach Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica, from April 30 to May 2, 2019, and agreed on specific approaches to burning, topical issues in our two nations.
1In the Cayman Islands, the nation faces the daunting issue of the legalisation of same-sex marriage. This bears heavily on the practice of ministry and the life and culture of congregations. The emotive issue affects spiritual and family life, causing trepidation in many persons in the Cayman Islands and other parts of the Caribbean region.
The United Church affirms the biblical beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that parents are male and female.
2 Even as we wrestle with the scourge of crime and violence in Jamaica, we are reminded of 1 Peter 3:11, which states: “They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”
The many incidents of violent crime have led to the declaration of states of emergency, the latest being in St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland. The church affirms this initiative as a strategy of immediate need but recognises that it is not a sustainable mechanism for purging the society of this malady. The synod, therefore, calls for a comprehensive crime plan by the Government, a reordering of the society, and the equipping of our security forces to investigate and apprehend evildoers, leading to conviction, punishment, and justice.
This plan should call for renewed focus on values and attitudes and encourage such programmes across all schools. We must reclaim our boys, affirm their personhood, and guide them in their identity formation. We must teach our children their inherent value and self-respect and guide them in godly choices and behaviour. Indeed, as Christ’s followers, we effect change through partnership with God, being cognisant of the fact that “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
The UCJCI is also dedicated to the cause of erasing the blemish of domestic violence in our two nations. In Jamaica, approximately 30 per cent of ever-partnered women aged 15-49 years experience intimate-partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, according to a study published in 2018.
Further to this, 450 people lost their lives as a result of domestic violence between 2006 and 2016. Men, too, are sometimes victims, and many suffer in silence. Children have been scarred and traumatised as a result of these violent incidents between adults and sometimes carry the emotional wounds for life.
An integral part of the church’s mission is the protection of the welfare of family life, and the UCJCI is committed to being a pastoral presence for families. The church will explore possibilities for partnership in a programme of family-life education. The areas of focus will be parenting education and training, reduction of child abuse and trauma, conflict-resolution training, and marital and relationship health. The respect for family values, as defined by Christ, and the protection of all children from abuse and neglect were affirmed by the synod.
3 Historically, corruption has discoloured the fabric of our society, attacking various facets of our lives. Jamaica ranked 70th out of 175 countries in corruption perception in the public sector in the 2018 Corruption Perception Index. This long-standing issue has marred our political, social, and economic landscape and exists at all levels of the Jamaican society. The 41st synod reiterated the call to arrest this issue with a new fire and the fervent will to better understand its root causes and effects and identify the solutions to this scourge.
4 Slavery society was established on a similar sinful premise as above, and the synod has committed to engaging and supporting local and international efforts towards reparations for the centuries of enslavement of African people in the region.
The 41st Synod of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands stands ready to partner with the relevant authorities and civil groups and to strengthen the efforts of the church to realise these desired outcomes.