Citing the breakdown of the family as the root cause of many ills plaguing Barbadian society, a rural Pentecostal pastor has sounded a warning that the country is “heading for a cliff” and will quickly fall off if decisive action is not taken to “stop the rot”.
Reverend Paul Watson, senior pastor at the Messiah Wesleyan Holiness Church in Messiah Street, St John, was delivering the sermon yesterday at a church service to mark the start of Prison Week 2015. “Restoring and Strengthening Family Linkages” was the theme of the sermon.
“It can’t be denied that one of the weaknesses that plagues our society and this generation begins in the home,” Watson told an audience that included Attorney General and Ministry of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite and prison officers.
“The family is the fundamental unit of society and we need to gear our programmes and polices in strengthening the family, which is the basic building block of our society,” he added.
Watson revealed that on a visit to nearby HMP Dodds in May this year he was shocked to find there were 894 males compared with 34 females who were locked up for committing various offences. “What’s gone wrong there? What’s wrong with our men? What’s wrong with our boys? It is not good enough that we have so much of untapped resources behind bars.”
The pastor admitted that it was “simplistic” to claim that all of the country’s social ills were directly related to inadequate family life, adding that there was a “long list of causes” including poverty.
But he said there was no doubt the breakdown of the family structure was a contributing factor.
“But I think as time has progressed
. . . we have come to an understanding that families are important. I think that we understand that the missing father . . . the decline and the breakdown in family life and the breakdown in our family structures are a cause”.
Watson also pointed to the rate of joblessness among the youth which stood at 39 per cent, and a low rate of marriages, which he described as worrying. He quoted figures from the Barbados 2010 Census and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) secretariat which showed that common-law unions in Barbados were up from 4,750 at the time of the previous census to 7,444.
“The live-in unions have doubled and the marriages have dropped. So what are we heading for? A cliff! We are heading for a cliff in family life. We [are] falling off fast and as a result of what is happening in our marriages and in our homes and in the economy, what’s happening . . . it’s worrying.”
Watson appealed to policymakers not to introduce programmes that threatened the family, warning that tampering with “things that have been held sacrosanct for years” had consequences.
He criticized “alternative lifestyles” and “social engineering” saying they too took a toll on the family and the society.
“. . . I say that in the light of same sex marriages, same sex couples and all the new things that are coming in; things that have served our society for years have suddenly been thrown out of the window. All of this is coming and they are going to have their consequences upon our society. It’s going to have consequences on our children . . . bad ideas have bad consequences and bad policies are going to have bad consequences.
“We need to reaffirm traditional religious beliefs in this island [that] family is scared. All I am saying to the policymakers don’t mess with it . . . we have much to lose because in a small society as ours when we begin to experiment with these new things, these alternative lifestyles, the impact is going to be greater . . . and every one of us is going to feel it.”
The pastor said the Bible had given society a model on marriages and parenting that “we ignore at our peril”. “We need to bring back morality, the old landmarks that have served us well . . . we need to reaffirm our traditional beliefs if we are going to see a strengthening in our families,” he stressed.