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Bunting keeps faith - Minister says Church must be involved in curbing crime

Published:Monday | January 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Peter Bunting, National Security Minister

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Shrugging off last year's avalanche of criticism of his call for divine intervention in dealing with crime, National Security Minister Peter Bunting has sounded a rallying cry for churches across the island to make themselves a centrepiece in efforts to bring an end to violence in 2014.

Bunting yesterday conceded that he was apprehensive about making the call after being pilloried by sections of the public last April in the aftermath of his "innocuous" divine intervention comment while speaking at Northern Caribbean University in Manchester.

At the time, the minister said he was convinced that "the best efforts of the security forces by itself will not solve the crime problem in Jamaica, but it is going to take divine intervention, touching the hearts of a wide cross section of the society".

For those comments, he was accused by many of surrendering to crime and demoralising members of the police force as they continued their efforts to get a grip on the crime problem.

In addition, former national security minister, Derrick Smith, called for Bunting to ask Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to relieve him of his post.

But yesterday, Bunting said key stakeholders in a section of his ministry's Unite for Change effort would be faith-based institutions.

"Let me be bold enough to suggest that the issues around violence prevention are not peripheral to the Church's mission, but at the core," Bunting asserted as he addressed the second anniversary service of the Transformed Life Church at the Old Hope Road-based Police Officers' Club.

Bunting, who has been under severe pressure as a result of a soaring murder rate and other concerns related to crime in 2013, lamented that his portfolio was deemed to be the graveyard of political careers as Jamaica has been experiencing high violent crime rates for decades.

He suggested that instead of blaming successive national security ministers for the perennial problem, there was need for a paradigm shift similar to the national security apparatus of the United States in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

He stressed that the key plank in Unite for Change is the rekindling of hope among Jamaicans to convince law-abiding citizens that they are not helpless.

"That is what 'Unite for Change' is about," declared Bunting. "… citizens coming together to make their respective communities safer."

He said the initiative aims to identify what each stakeholder in the fight against crime - including the Church, public health, business, non-governmental organisations, and neighbourhood watch volunteers - needs to do.

Said Bunting: "Issues of peace, sanctity of life, reconciliation, love, and respect are central themes of Christianity - all great religions - and these are precisely the values that we need to infuse in our society to reduce the anger, hostility, and violence."

Bunting reiterated that if every church in Jamaica was prepared to hold itself accountable to reduce violence in just one community across the island, such initiatives would yield an "amazing level of peace and prosperity".

Calling for church leaders to be 'street pastors' who seek to help marginalised persons in communities, Bunting declared: "In the final analysis, citizen action must make the difference in crime prevention."