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EDITORIAL - Church-inspiring action in Jones Town

Published:Saturday | January 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

We laud the out-of-the-box initiative of the Baptist Church in starting a farming programme in the tough Jones Town neighbourhood of Kingston. The initiative involves leasing 20 abandoned housing lots and putting in short-term crops. It is a new idea which reflects visionary thinking and helps to confirm the Church's ongoing role as a partner in the advancement of communities. We must never forget how the early Church established schools all across the country and that Christian values and discipline governed the ethos of those institutions.

These Jones Town houses were abandoned by their occupants, pointing to the systematic destruction and degradation of inner-city communities because of violence, political tribalism and other social ills. Now, the plan is to revitalise this community by putting people to work the land. The long-term benefits are many: people will be helping to feed themselves; they will earn a livelihood; they will be helping to develop a healthy lifestyle.

Even if people are not committed to a regular pattern of prayer and worship, they all want peace and prosperity and an opportunity to see their children grow up to be worthwhile citizens. As we look around these days, there is no escaping the fact that society appears less religious. Despite this, however, there is a growing demand for a return to the moral values traditionally taught by the Church - values such as love, honesty and respect for others. So we anticipate that the decent hard-working folk of Jones Town will willingly invest in this project, which will transform their community and hopefully, spark new opportunities for renewal.

More work to do

However, the Church has more work to do in involving the society in advocacy and community education, for it would be a great let-down if criminals were to invade these fields and selfishly reap the benefits while depriving those who laboured on these plots. There is an urgent necessity to cultivate a public conscience alongside the need to create economic opportunities.

We congratulate Agriculture Minister Chris Tufton for his relentless campaign to shape public attitude towards growing food for our own consumption. It is scandalous that a country with such rich soil and steeped in agricultural tradition should be importing 60 per cent of the food it consumes. When one considers the difficult budgetary and economic challenges the country faces, it is puzzling why food security is not given the priority it deserves. Food security cannot be tackled piecemeal; it comes down to the question of mobilisation at the highest political levels, especially since there are predictions that global food production must be doubled by 2040 if demand is to be met.

Like Jones Town, the scars of violence are evident on the faces of many other inner-city communities and we would urge churches and other civic organisations to use their creative energy to develop more partnerships like the Jones Town programme in which there is access to land, extension services and finance.

We congratulate the Church for its part in inspiring action and hope that this renewed commitment to working the land means that agriculture can take its place in helping to turn around battered communities and mend shattered lives.

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