Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today reached out to the Church for divine intervention as his Government struggles to combat the “nefarious” illegal drug and firearms trade, which he said was presently “haunting” the country.
Addressing the opening of a national consultation put on by the Anglican Diocese of Barbados under the theme Restoring Our Barbadian Family, he told the gathering, which included representatives of other religious denominations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and Government, that “a number of challenges should concern us all” since they threaten the very safety and security of the Barbadian family.
“First of all there is the scourge of violence in the society,” Stuart said.
“This violence is, generally speaking nowadays is gun violence and related to that violence is the nefarious drug trade,” said Stuart, while stating that the Royal Barbados Police Force was trying its best to “wrestle the challenge to the ground”.
Stuart also disclosed that a member of the European Union delegation had pointed out to him on Monday that the EU were “very concerned” about the drug trade as well.
“They [EU] have to be because the drugs are produced in South America, [and drug traffickers] use the Caribbean as a transshipment point for the onward movement of these drugs to the north Atlantic, Europe and the United States of America,” Stuart explained, adding that the point he was trying to make to the EU official was that “the very first thing we have to do is get our bearings right”.
The Prime Minister also said there was need for “a more relevant debate” on the issue of drug trafficking, as well as that of illicit firearms, pointing out that even while the authorities continued to make pronouncements about their illegality, it was “entirely probable” that those being talked about were discussing their “work” and what their next move would be.
“We should never condone what is happening . . . I am making the point that unless our societies develop the capacity and the flexibility to respond to the diverse needs and aspirations of our people, young and not so young . . . this is a battle that we will have profound difficulty in winning. We will have profound difficulty in fighting it and we will have profound difficulty in winning it,” he said.
With that said, Stuart appealed to the Church for help saying, “the Church and the State have to come together to see how best we can, first of all, frame a dialogue on the issue, but also to see how best we can come up with solutions to some of the challenges posed by a sense of alienation of those who are involved, that makes them easy candidates for recruitment to that nefarious drug trade”.
Saying he heard the cries of people who “wonder how we have got to this stage”, Stuart said that while it was only a small segment of society involved in the drugs trade, as well as violence and crime, their activities could have “profound and troubling consequences for all of us”.
“We are dealing with a challenge here that requires all our resources to confront it. And the Government stands ready to work with the Church because it is causing immense pain to our families. And unless we can emit rays of hope to our people in terms of how best we can get this problem brought under some kind of control, the family will continue to be put under pressure,” the Prime Minister stressed.
During his one-hour presentation, Stuart pointed to a number of legislative changes that were put in place over the years, saying the State was not blind to the need to protect families, promote family life and help stabilize families.
However, he said, like other countries in the region and the world, Barbados still had a big challenge with residents who did not make the distinction between “good” and “bad”.
“If we lose sight of that we are courting a society of chaos, and that is precisely one of the challenges we have been facing here in the country amongst a very small cohort of our population,” he said, while stressing that “we have to get people back to an acceptance of those distinctions.
“Those distinctions are eroded because a consumerist culture, Madison Avenue tastes have managed to take over our consciousness. But if we are going to build a Barbados of which we want to feel proud in the future these are concerns which we have to address” he emphasized.
In his short presentation, Bishop of Barbados Dr John Holder said the Anglican Church was also concerned about the present social ills.
Holder, who is also Archbishop of the West Indies, acknowledged that the Church had a role to play in addressing these issues.
“Given what we are experiencing and seeing around us here in Barbados, there is a lot of room for improvement in our family relationships,” the Anglican leader said.
“We believe it is the responsibility of the Church and other organizations and institutions to assist those who may be experiencing family problems,” he added, while pointing
out that there were still some good examples of families across the island.