Despite the recent flare-ups of violence and the persistence of criminal activity across sections of western Jamaica, some church leaders remain committed to their community outreach programmes as a means of encouraging young people from turning to a life of crime.
Charles Brevitt, the outspoken pastor of the Glendevon circuit of Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Churches in St James, outlined several ongoing outreach initiatives that his organisation is currently pursuing, to include a training programme alongside the HEART Trust-NTA.
"Last year, at this time, we were running a tent campaign in Glendevon, including from Salt Spring down to Church Street, and we had a partnership with HEART in which we were training people in a number of programmes," said Brevitt.
"The year before, we had a massive campaign down at 'Dump-up' Beach, and again we partnered with HEART in doing a training programme. Currently, the Kings Church at the West Jamaica Conference is running a programme in conjunction with HEART, training young people."
Brevitt added that, at present, the SDA churches in Glendevon and Norwood are holding "a youth-empowerment programme, and we are doing some interventions in terms of parenting counselling and conflict resolution projects, and we are doing projects that have to do with literacy. We had a street march against violence last week, and this week, both churches are going to have another programme where youth are appealing to their fellow youth to come up a little higher in terms of their value and contribution to society".
Glenroy Clarke, pastor of the Lucea United Church in neighbouring Hanover, says his church strives to be a consistent presence in the community.
"We try to be visible in the community. Our church has an open door for persons who can always come; those who are infected or affected, they can always come, but we go to them too," said Clarke. "In the last year, we have done an intense campaign in the different communities ... in the Greenland area, we brought the HEART Trust mobile unit to recruit persons. We try to assist in finding jobs for people, and we have been trying to work with the police as well."
Clarke also noted that the mandate of the church community is "to always impact the lives of human beings. It is not a reactive approach only, but the church is always consistent with the mission to allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform lives. It is, in truth, rebellion to the gospel and resistance of it that allow people to walk in these paths of heinous activities".