A plethora of issues confronting the society and its youth, in particular, may be addressed with the help of the church.
This was underscored recently when Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite met with the Barbados Christian Council at Diocesan House, Henry’s Lane, St Michael.
Acknowledging that the island had achieved a great deal because of “the hard work and dedication” of the church, he told members gathered that notwithstanding the separation between church and state, the role played by the former was recognised by politicians as contributing to the development of the society.
The Minister noted that there was a breakdown in family life and parenting, manifested by too many irresponsible mothers and fathers; that all schools were riddled with similar problems of aggression and violence, while youth violence was escalating with girls factoring highly among the perpetrators. He further revealed that too many repeat offenders were being seen in the penal system, and noted that cases of domestic violence seemed to be increasing across Barbados, and too much gun and drug activity existed locally and regionally.
“I do think there is a case for us to intervene more in terms of our young people; to see how we can assist more of our offenders when they leave prison and in terms of families, who do seem to be under threat. I do appreciate that many homes are single parent households, and we need to persuade men, in particular, to play their role and have a relationship with their children. They can still be in a visiting relationship and be a good father,” he declared.
While pointing out that there were many women who used children as leverage, once a relationship had broken down, the Attorney General said: “The men are not allowed to be part of their upbringing once it has broken down . . . but there is a role for our men to encourage some of our younger men to be better fathers.”
According Brathwaite, years of talking about at-risk youth are over. Giving his own perspective on this, he said it was more a case of “at-risk families”, and he urged the church to go into households and examine how they could assist the family “and not just the individual boy or girl who may be having challenges”.
He contended that young individuals, after receiving assistance at the Government Industrial School (GIS), were too often placed back into the households with the same challenges, and said: “Unless you can address their familial breakdown then you are sometimes up against it in terms of your intervention.”
And, he took to task those mothers who not only encouraged their young boys and girls to contribute to households without inquiring as to how they were “getting the money”, and for failing to make the appropriate sacrifices.
“We also have to examine why in some households the parents find it easy or acceptable for either the children to be exploited or get involved in criminal activity and live off the proceeds . . . . These are the same parents who would be in the newspaper saying: ‘He was a good boy,’ lamented Brathwaite, while adding that in discussion with the police one would hear, ‘Well he was known to us for about five or six years’.”
Noting that mothers of yesteryear would have deplored such actions, he added that there was a Juvenile Liaison Scheme to assist the youth, but when some parents were asked to come along with their children, they refused. “So that’s why over the past few years we have been talking about parenting classes. . . . Something is definitely wrong with parenting in the country,” he maintained.
As he pointed to the need for parents to be aware of their children’s activities and friends, he advised the various churches to analyse the break-down. “We have always had households led by women and they were stronger. . . so, we need to examine why they seem to be weaker than in the past,” Brathwaite said.
Noting that part of it had to do with the willingness to make sacrifices, he stated that this had to be viewed in the context of whether today’s woman wanted to make the sacrifice that “your mother and mine made to ensure that we, as children could make the most out of life”.
With respect to youth violence, the minister said: “We are unfortunately seeing among the boys and girls a bit more violent and criminal behaviour. . . young people with gun-related offences and more drug addiction than we had in the past and that to me is indicative of a problem that we have to examine as a society in terms of ‘why’?”
It was noted too that girls were becoming more violent and some were living lives that 13-year-olds “should not be required to in our society”.
“Some of it, unfortunately, is condoned by the persons who are supposed to protect them. So, you would have some of our young girls who would run from exploitation within their homes and then would further be exploited where they thought they would find some solace and comfort,” he disclosed.
While adding that young men at the GIS were coming without basic academic and life skills, he contended that the church needed to assist in determining why these young people were becoming more violent. The Attorney General said the church also needed to find out why young men seemed to be abusing substances; and why some young women seemed to be at the stage where they are saying to themselves, ‘we need to show the young men that we are just as bad or worse than they are’.
Touching on domestic violence, Brathwaite said: “Research does indicate that there is an unacceptable level of domestic violence and, certainly, gender violence in these countries in comparison to first world countries. It’s an area therefore, where we have to pay much more attention.”
He concluded by lamenting that the focus seemed to be more on domestic violence as a crime, where there was the involvement of the police, and he urged the Barbados Christian Council to determine how to intervene earlier to prevent this stage of violence.
“You [the church] really have to let them know that violence is not the answer. We need to reach out and do more with our brothers and sisters,” the Attorney General advised. (BGIS)