Catholic church calls for political unity in fighting crime

THE Roman Catholic church in Jamaica is calling for higher levels of consensus between the two major political parties to fix the issues of criminal violence plaguing the country and has pledged its commitment to help stamp out criminality, social injustice, and corruption.

“Political engagement ought to be an exercise of Christian virtue designed to protect and enlarge the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of all – not to elevate special interests. Let all in political life put aside selfishness and egotism. We commend those elected or appointed to public service and insist that they hold themselves and all of us, to the highest, ethical, and moral standards,” the catholic bishops said in a media statement yesterday.“Over the course of the past few months, alarming stories of crime and violence have filled the news. Our families are being torn by violence. Our communities are being destroyed by violence. Social and economic progress are being sabotaged by violence. Our faith is being tested by violence. We have an obligation to respond,” the church said.

The church said while it encouraged the use of all legal and constitutional measures by the security forces to quell crime, it could not support states of emergency as a long-term crime-fighting measure and is strongly opposed to preventive detention and imprisonment without recourse to the courts.Furthermore, it said there is urgent need to change the culture of the Jamaica Constabulary Force which now engenders mistrust in many: “We support an emphasis on community policing whereby neighbourhoods can gain confidence in their protectors, the police can gain intelligence, and a culture of order and lawfulness can be strengthened.”The church endorses efforts to end corruption of all kinds, Kenneth D Richards, archbishop of Kingston; Burchell A McPherson, bishop of the Diocese of Montego Bay; and John D Persaud, bishop of the Diocese of Mandeville, stated.At the same time, the church pledged to a special commitment to the interests of the most vulnerable, arguing that “people are not born criminals. All of us learn behaviour patterns – positive and negative – from our parents, families, church, schools, the media and the wider community”.It said it is recommitting to emphasise in young people in more than 100 schools, in line with national policy for educational transformation, positive socialisation: self-respect, respect for others, discipline, responsibility, and strong work and patriotic ethics.“We promise to stir up in our churches the commitment to mentor vulnerable youth in our schools and communities. We support the expansion of uniformed groups, and other character-building, co-curricular activities for all young people. We recommend the assignment of social workers and positive culture animators in all schools. We recommend that schools with many children from under-resourced homes receive special support from the State and community. We commit to reduce, and eventually end, drop-outs from our schools. We will do everything possible to prevent young people leaving school without reasonable certification in literacy, numeracy and at least one employable skill as well as exposure to good moral values,” the church vowed.The Roman Catholic church said it was also advocating a period of national service for all school leavers, to further socialise where necessary, strengthen work habits, and to give them an opportunity to give back to society.

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