By Devon Dick
RECENTLY, I was asked by the pastor of William Knibb Memorial Baptist Church in Falmouth, Devere Nugent, to give the inaugural lecture on the work of the late William Knibb (1803-45). He and his members were supported in this venture by title sponsor Bank of Nova Scotia, as well as by the William Knibb Memorial High School. In offering greetings, Patrick Atkinson, attorney general and member of parliament, encouraged the gathering to emulate the life of English missionary William Knibb.
Knibb, who has an Order of Merit, was the typical missionary before the passive resistance against slavery and for wages which was led by Sam Sharpe. He did not frontally challenge slavery and instead instilled in the enslaved that they should be obedient to masters and wait on freedom. Then, when he realised that slavery was impeding the spread of the gospel, he became a champion in the fight against it.
Knibb's greatness began after the Sam Sharpe resistance. Knibb understood the implications of freedom and implemented strategies to sustain the gains of freedom for the enslaved. So he was in the forefront in the establishment of free villages, which provided housing, a place of worship, school, security of tenure, and plots to engage in subsistence farming. Knibb and others believed that another implication of freedom was to be involved with the electoral process, and he mobilised the enslaved to exercise their voting franchise so that members of the Assembly would be more representative of the Africans. What is little known about Knibb is that he believed that war, under all circumstances, was always unjustified. He was anti-war. He also demanded the abolition of the militia and armed police.
War distorts the absolute inestimable value of human life, which is wasted and lost. Worldwide, more persons are being killed in various wars than those who died in World War 1. Perhaps the world will never know the final count. In war, there are no winners, because the life of a soldier, after participating on the battlefield, is usually plagued with serious mental issues. War often reverses all the rules of morality. All virtues are excluded and nearly all vices are allowed. War is also very expensive, as the United States is finding out, and it has placed that economy in serious debt and the world in economic problems.
It seems, therefore, that we need to rethink how we operate.
For example, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is institutionalising war.
War is so much in our psyche that we turn competitions into war and perceive each other as enemies. Therefore, schoolboy football games are not times for fun and fellowship, but winning at all cost. People get nervous that there are three candidates running for the presidency for the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association and believe that it could harm the gains already made and divide the organisation into camps. In addition, people expect that there could be bloodletting because four candidates are vying for the position for chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party and two for the post of general secretary. This is because of our war mentality. And persons are afraid to express publicly their preference for who should fill these positions, because we are constantly at war. We are now afraid to host elections and persons want to get positions on a platter.
We need to follow Knibb and become anti-war worldwide and locally.