Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
A pastor whose pulpit rests in the once crime-ridden August Town, St Andrew, community is now anticipating "prosperity" for the area as the guns have ceased barking, thanks to a successful peace agreement between warring factions.
Reverend Ezekiel Curtis, speaking at his Haven of Hope Open Bible Church in August Town on Sunday, told members of his congregation that out of the peace should come positive growth for the community.
"I have a dream for this community... Out of the peace we should expect productivity, and out of productivity should come prosperity," Curtis declared.
He was addressing his congregation during a special church service to commemorate the second anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement among the communities of African Gardens, Jungle 12, Gold Smith Villa, Colour Red, Judgement Yard and Bedward Garden, which for years, engaged each other in deadly clashes.
The agreement, drafted in 2008, saw members of all five warring factions agreeing to put an end to all conflicts for a period of five years. So far, the initiative has been reaping major success, according to reports from police and residents in the area.
Maintain the peace
The clergyman, while lauding the different agents instrumental in bringing about the peace the community is enjoying, urged his congregation to ensure it is maintained.
"We have to leave the four walls and go out in the communities ... the one and two scatter shots in the community, don't worry about them. When you want to change conditions in a community, sometimes you have to take unorthodox measures," the clergyman said. He added that a community which places little focus on preserving the peace will remain "stagnant".
Rev Curtis took the opportunity to lash out against church members who he said sometimes act as a deterrent to change and the preservation of the peace.
"Too many of us are compromising with the wrongdoers. Now is not the time to bow to donmanship. Come out of compromise, come out of solidarity with evil and wrongdoers," he urged.
While lamenting the negative impact crime has had on the community over the past years, the reverend told congregants that were it not for the violence in the area, real estate value in the community would have sky rocketed.
"If there were no violence in the community, many of us would have been rich. Research shows that real estate in the Kingston 7 area is of so much value, your house and land would appreciate so much over the years," he said, while highlighting the community's close proximity to the University of the West Indies.
Community members who stood outside the church ground as the clergyman welcomed the wind of change also attest to the relative peace the community is experiencing. 'Waggle,' 47, who told The Gleaner he has been living in the community all his life, said the peace in the community was like never before.
"Yeah man, we free fi walk anywhere we waan walk nowadays and nah affi worry seh nobody a go trouble you," he said, while noting that most of the wrongdoers have been killed.
Head of the August Town Transformation Initiative, Kenneth Wilson has attributed the lingering peace to several social intervention programmes taking place in the community, and the close relationship shared by members in the community and the police. "We encourage people to share the information with the police, and challenge everyone to get rid of the 'informer fi dead' culture," Wilson said.