Saturday, November 5, 2016

A day of tragedy, a call to action

Jamaica Observer column published MON 31 October 2016
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Nicholas Francis
A manager in my office has had to be comforting her son, classmate of 14-year-old Jamaica College student Nicholas Francis who was stabbed to death last Wednesday on a bus by a thieving thug.  Not only did he stab this defenceless child but he pushed him off the bus, breaking his arm.  In a news report, we heard that Nicholas’ mother stood grieving over the body of her dead son and begging God to wake him up. 

A few hours after Nicholas' horrific demise, Jamaica College graduate, Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson, was being inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, after being honoured earlier this month by the American Friends of Jamaica in New York City. Such are the heights that our children can reach... If they are allowed to live to get there. 

Aware of the challenges to the safety and survival of this new generation, Butch Hendrickson declared to his audience, “Martin Luther King so eloquently put it: 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'  Let us commit to become passionately engaged...We the People..The power of We  --- A magical force!!”

He continued, “And, with this formidable collaboration of private and public sectors, let us seize these opportune moments to bring to a decisive end the politics of poverty that for far too long have gripped our boldest intentions in a relentless stranglehold. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to formulate policies that will release us all to create opportunities for wealth and prosperity. We cannot and must not squander the lives of another generation of Jamaicans.”

Over recent months we have heard some of the most heart-breaking reports of children whose lives have been taken by these monsters.  We remember visiting with the family of toddler Demario Whyte who was shot execution style on Luke Lane in downtown Kingston. A few weeks ago, three children were among the five killed in the March Pen massacre.

These evil doers are the spawn of a cynical set of power brokers, political and otherwise who have unleashed cruelty on our beloved Jamaica. Every time a parent now sees off his or her child to school, the painful fact of Nicholas Francis’ death must now strike terror in their hearts.

Therefore, let us make it clear to our political leaders on both sides, our leaders in the public and private sectors, church and civil society: we have fallen very short of our duty to our country and our people.

In a conversation with a fellow medium business owner this week, we shared the long hours, the tough audits, the punitive taxes that we must pay, in order to stay in business and the snail’s pace of public organizations to address our nation’s problems. 

Another JC graduate, Dr Lucien Jones, had given a lecture at a seminar a few days before titled ‘Healthy Church: Healthy Nation’. He spoke on ' Decisive Issues facing Christians’.  He noted that in 1970, there were 152 homicides and that this rose to a record 1,683 in 2009. He quoted a famous theologian John Stott: "whenever a society goes bad, it is not the fault of the society, but we Christians who are called to be ' salt and light'.”

Dr Jones noted, “Yes, marches and demonstrations, and policy initiatives, and police actions, and interventions by Civil Society, and prayers by the Church, even fasting have sessions, all have a role to play in rescuing our country. But ultimately it all depends on our obedience to the God.” 

He challenged us to make the right choices in our lives, “for only God can, in Christ, “extend peace to us like a river", in a broken and troubled world in which Nicholas Francis lived and died. Way too soon!”

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