Fighting crime is everybody's responsibility
Donald J. Reece, Contributor
The article in The Gleaner of Monday, January 4, 'Church failing Ja', along with that of Sunday, January 3 by Esther Tyson, give us pause to examine how the Church could influence 'the fight against crime'. It's good to see such lively and spirited discussions which, hopefully will be converted into action.
As I read the comments of those interviewed in the Monday issue, I wondered whether they realised that they, too, are a part of the problem. You see, 'Church' is not only the leadership of the body of believers. Rather, all those who follow Christ comprise the Church. Therefore, we need to expand the discussion to involve the ordinary rank-and-file members, the preachers/
priests, parents and teachers, as well as the politicians and law-enforcement officers, many of whom belong to one denomination or the other.
Reverend Karl Johnson was correct when he stated that "the crime situation is 'far more complex'. If it were as simple as some think, we would have found solutions long ago." Proclaiming from the pulpit the usual exhortations to live according to the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments or specifics of Christian moral values is not done in a vacuum. There are secular factors that drown out or militate against those very teachings that are meant to bring people to conversion and the transformation of their lives in accordance with Christian moral living.
Indiscipline a main factor
One such prevailing factor is indiscipline in all areas of life: homes, workplaces, roadways and even Church. That paralysing indiscipline is rife right throughout the society: in homes, many of which are dysfunctional with no father figure around; in the laissez-faire attitude that successive governments have allowed to develop among the electorate; and negligence on the part of legislators and law enforcement officers to apply the laws that are already on the books. All such attitudes (or inaction) contribute to the increase in criminal activities in Jamaica.
As an example, in 2000, an important bit of legislation was passed to discourage praedial larceny, the Praedial Larceny (Prevention) Act. As far as I know, this Act has never been enforced, and so the dishonesty and theft that frustrate and discourage farmers, have also emboldened thieves to commit crimes with impunity, thereby entrenching unwittingly an indiscipline that spills over into other activities and relationships. Or consider the squatting that is allowed to go on right under our noses in front of the University Hospital and elsewhere. Isn't this an ingredient of indiscipline and selfishness? The common good is not served!
Indiscipline must be tackled at all levels. Rev. Karl Johnson is right on target: "the crime situation is 'far more complex'." Until all stakeholders - and that we all are - realise that we must be part of the solution, the crime situation will continue and increase. All must act according to their particular situation: preachers/priests must allow the Word of God to challenge the consciences of their congregants, parents and teachers must educate to bring out the best qualities in their children, politicians must enact laws that are just and firm to ensure and maintain the common good and the police must enforce the laws on one and all (no matter the status of the offenders).
The majority of these persons are followers of Christ and they do comprise the Church. Let's keep the discussion going until we have the willpower to act accordingly, for "the crime situation is 'far more complex'."
Donald J. Reece is Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston. Feedback may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.