There is a Chinese proverb which says, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
I often hear Barbadians asking the question, “What is happening to our once beautiful Barbados?” To this, I respond by stating that Barbados is still beautiful, because most Barbadians are decent, loving and friendly people. Unfortunately, the beauty is often clouded by the ‘darkness’ which covers the island, the darkness of crime occasioned by many different contributing factors: the economy, unemployment, the availability of guns and drugs, poverty, poor parenting, to name just a few.
Of course, it is easy to talk about what is wrong, but it is often a challenge to find a solution to the problem. Yes, it is easier to curse the darkness than to light a candle, but in the long run lighting a candle will provide solutions. It is also easier to point fingers at others and blame them for causing these ills, than to ask ourselves, “How have I contributed to the situation by my inaction or silence? What can I do to help to solve the problems?” In other words, “How can I light my candle? Where do I put it?” Let me make some suggestions.
The word ‘better’ implies ‘good’, so that even though we try to help by lighting a candle, yet there are times when it is ‘good’ to curse the darkness first. This brings me to the role of the religions and Christian denominations in Barbados. I still believe that religion is the moral voice of the nation; and while I do not know what effect my suggestion would have, yet I believe that it is worthwhile trying. So here it is.
The Minister responsible for Ecclesiastical Affairs could follow up on that effort she made a few weeks ago by inviting the leaders of the various religions in Barbados (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Rastafarianism, etc.) as well as the leaders of the many Christian denominations (Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Moravians, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc.), to come together on a particular day in one place, like Heroes Square, and pronounce God’s (or other Deity’s) righteous judgement on all those who are responsible in any way for the importation or provision of guns and drugs in Barbados. Let them know that their finances will be ‘cursed’. Let them know that even though they may be able to escape man’s judgement because they might have ‘friends in high places’, yet our Omnipotent God in the ‘highest place’ is very displeased with their actions; and He certainly has the last word.
These leaders should then follow up by ‘lighting candles’ as they reach out in more meaningful ways to touch the lives of the poor, unemployed, unemployable, under-educated, etc. Credit must be given to those religious institutions that are doing good work in the community, who are lighting candles every day, but who unfortunately ‘hide their candles under a bushel’, rather than put them on a ‘stand’, so that all might see, and give God the glory.
I speak as an Anglican Priest (in New York) as I vouch for the fact that the Anglican Church in Barbados continues to make a significant contribution to community life in ways that are not always known. Yes, of course, there is much room for improvement. I have a vision of a ‘new earth’ in the Anglican Church since the consecration of the Right Rev. Michael Maxwell as its new leader. I was very impressed by photographs of Bishop Maxwell interacting with the children of that nursery in St Philip. Here is an opportunity for the Church to save the next generation. To me, this was not merely a ‘photo op’; it was a demonstration of a genuine love the Bishop has for children, and of the children’s appreciation of his ‘down-to-earth’ presence among them.
It has been emphasized in the media that there is a distinct connection between the youth’s inability to read and write, and crime. I know this to be true from my many years of educational and social ministry. It is well documented that when children cannot read or write, they begin by being disruptive or withdrawn in class. Then, when they reach a certain age, they feel embarrassed and find it difficult to cope academically. So they drop out of school, and ‘the devil finds work for idle hands to do’. They often turn to crime. There is, therefore, the need to address this problem on a much more serious level.
I am impressed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and her administration in their attempt to address this great problem. I would like to suggest that the Anglican Church or some other denomination could recruit members who are retired or have time to spare, who would go into the schools with the permission of the Ministry of Education and spend a few hours every week helping youngsters with their reading and writing problems. This can be taken on as a national outreach programme of the Church and a demonstration of the importance of lighting a large candle for all to see and give God the Glory.
Another candle that the Anglican Church can light is to use its resources to minister to those youngsters who have served prison terms and are back in the community. There are some rectories (homes provided by the Church for the clergy) that have been abandoned. These could be renovated and used in some way to provide opportunities for these youngsters to be equipped to cope: educational programmes, skills, interpersonal relationships, etc. In other words, give them a second chance, as Barnabas did for Paul (Acts 9: 26-27).
The darkness of crime in Barbados is the cause of much fear among Barbadians and visitors. Barbados is too beautiful for people to be unhappy. So it is time for everyone to stop the ‘finger pointing’ and ask the question, “What can I do to contribute to the nation’s happiness?
The Government is going ‘all out’ to deal with the problem of crime, and I applaud them for their efforts. However, they cannot do it alone. All ‘hands’ are needed. Everyone has something to offer, be it ever so small or seemingly unimportant. It must begin with good and loving parenting. Churches and schools have their very important roles to play. The time has come for the clergy to focus more on community outreach. They should let their presence be felt and seen in the community rather than remain in their churches and expect people to come to them.
There are many more detailed suggestions that I can offer, but space does not permit. Also, many excellent suggestions have been offered in the media by Barbadians who are wiser than I, and are caught up in the everyday experiences of living in Barbados. However, I am offering a strong suggestion and prayer that people would focus more on finding solutions than on emphasizing the problems.
So then, whatever the size of your candle, light it, and dispel the darkness. May God bless Barbados.
G. Llewellyn Armstrong (Rev. Canon Dr.)
Rector: Resurrection Anglican Congregation, NYC