Church leaders representing three major religious organizations here agree on the need for community intervention as a significant way of helping to arrest violence in this country, particularly the current upsurge in gun-related crime.
Head of the umbrella Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI) Bishop Gerry Seale is adamant that making pronouncements in the media will not make any difference to those who are carrying out the violence, neither will calling on them to stop shooting.
“I think there needs to be an initiative that reaches out to those in whose interest the violence is being carried out and work with those people to find other ways to resolve the situation,” Bishop Seale told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“Are we willing to take steps to find the people who are leading these gangs and begin initiatives that would make a change in what is happening?” the PAWI leader asked.
He argued that if the country was not able to find ways to engage those who are leading the violence to bring about a resolution, the situation would get worse and Barbados could find itself in a position similar to some other crime-riddled Caribbean countries.
Stating that he views the current situation in Barbados with a lot of concern, Bishop Seale revealed that his church organization has decided to partner with founder and director of Drug Education Counseling Services Pastor Roger Husbands in seeking solutions outside the four walls of the church.
“Under our umbrella he has developed an assembly to cater specifically to young people coming out of the gangs and drug cultures. So we have a positive input there . . . that’s another young man who has started reaching out in another area to young people who are being caught up in the same drug and gang culture,” he said.
General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Holiness Churches in Barbados Rev. Joel Cumberbatch also supports the church operating out of the box and placing more focus on community outreach initiatives.
“Certainly as we approach the new year, we have to talk peace. I think one thing we have to do though . . . not the church alone . . . we have to link up with other organizations; getting into the communities, whether it is townhall meetings or small groups; fellows on the block, whatever…try to use our influence to talk to people; hear from them what the issues are…but above all we have to prayer and act,” Rev Cumberbatch suggested.
While dismissing a school of thought that the church has failed the nation’s youth, the Wesleyan Church leader agreed that it can do more to reach young people.
“The church has always been working with young people. I wouldn’t say that we have failed. I would say we can do more. Maybe we need to do some new and creative things. I am sure there is not a denomination or church in Barbados where you don’t have some measure of outreach,” he added.
“One of the things I would like to see the church get involved in a more dynamic way though is empowering people,” added Rev. Cumberbatch. “Empowering people educationally; empowering people in terms of skills. The Christian faith is not just theory nor is it just going to church and jumping and dancing and having a good time. That has its place. But it is about empowering people for life,” the Wesleyan Church head told Barbados TODAY.
He suggested that the church must work more with families and youth and teach them confict resolution skills.
He defended young people against much of the violence seen and experienced in the country noting that when he moves around the island he has been witnessing most of the verbal violence coming from adults including the road rage.
According to Rev. Cumberbatch, everybody seems to be in a mad rush, lacking in tolerance and thinking only about themselves. “I think this is where we have failed badly,” the church head stated.
“We have to use the resources and skills that we have to help the down-trodden, the disenfranchised, the poor and dispossessed. It is very easy to run ahead and leave the other person. It happens in church too you know,” added Rev Cumberbatch.
And Diocesan Administrator for the Anglican Church Canon Wayne Isaacs is also backing the idea of getting out into the community and touching people where they are.
“We prayer that the Government and the police will be able to find a solution for the evil which we need to eradicate from our society. The Diocese of Barbados, is willing to join forces with anyone or any group that desires to work to bring a solution to the problem,” Canon Isaacs told Barbados TODAY.
He questioned whether the violence and the murders can be attributed to the current economic situation.
“It seems that there is some evidence that what is happening is the result of conflict between groups…drugs seem to be part of the problem. But what is worrying is the ease with which persons are able to get guns and commit these deadly violence against persons in the society,” the Anglican cleric lamented.
Noting that it is a problem that concerns the church, state and society generally, the Anglican Church leader is suggesting that all concerned come together “to arrest this evil which permeates all sectors of our society”. [email protected]