Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
Education Minister and clergyman Ronald Thwaites, who last week came under fire for publicly expressed views on the addition of general consumption tax (GCT) to some basic food items without the implementation of a proper social safety net, has called for the Church to follow in his lead and speak out in instances where an injustice is being meted out to the poor.
Adding that there was a "political dimension within the Christian mission", Thwaites said the society was reeling from the ill effects of preachers shying away from their mission.
Just last week the education minister was called to defend his views on the tax on basic foods after Opposition Leader Andrew Holness called for him to resign as a matter of principle.
Holness, who was speaking during a press conference last Wednesday, said Thwaites' membership in the Cabinet had become untenable following moves by his administration to tax certain basic food items. Holness argued that if a member did not agree with a position taken by Cabinet that person should step aside.
However, Holness' call was brushed aside by Thwaites who said there were no inconsistencies between the stance he took and that of his administration, and that the concerns he aired were, as a result, being addressed.
In the meantime, speaking during a graduation ceremony at Jamaica Theological Seminary on Saturday, it was the same strident clergyman who called for the Church to recognise their duty to the Jamaican people and speak out against such injustice.
While noting that it was out of necessity that, in recent weeks, the poorest among the Jamaican people had additional taxation heaped on them, Thwaites said: "It is the story of our history from emancipation upwards, without exception, that whenever there were real resources to be given to those who require them or deserve them most there has been an inversion of reason, and inevitably those resources have been given to those who already had full baskets."
He added: "The argument, specious then and still now, is that somehow what went on the head and the shoulders would eventually trickle down to the ground."
He said the Church has become far too accommodating of the injustices in society, to the point that these injustices, are now viewed by some as part of "God's plan".
Thwaites also used the opportunity to call upon the Church to take heed from the scriptures, which cautioned against government placing undue burdens on the poor.
"This is why some of us have asked and pleaded that the proceeds of additional resources that come from further impost upon the majority of the people not be used in various ways, but be used particularly to relieve those burdens that they themselves are caused to bear," he said.
"It is the Church's role in a community of faith to call attention to the moral and religious dimensions of secular issues to keep alive the values of the gospel as a norm for social and political life ... such a ministry on the part of every individual as well as the organisational church inevitably involves political consequences for it touches upon the most sensitive public affairs."
Yesterday, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, Karl Johnson said while the outcry from churches could never be considered enough, he believed Christians were more aware of the role they must play in politics. He said churches continue to play a crucial role in helping to hold up the pillars of society.
"One would never even want to imagine what the state of our social underpinning would look like if the churches were to disappear tomorrow morning," Johnson said.