Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting the Peace and Goodwill we need

Observer column published 19 DEC 2016

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
A family lighting Advent Candle at
Stella Maris
  Christmas is a big deal in Jamaica. However humble we may be, we are ‘drawing’ our sorrel, sprucing up our homes and sending cards by mail or internet to our loved ones. Church folks are now in the final week of Advent as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and focus on the message of ‘Peace and Goodwill’ that this historic event heralded.
Our Awareness Walk against Domestic Violence
at Hope Gardens
However, for many Jamaican families, their joy has been extinguished by evil thugs who have been murdering, raping and robbing the innocent, with no regard for age or gender. In recent weeks, the scourge of domestic violence has become even more painful. Two organizations, WeChange and the 51Percent Coalition, with the support of UN Women and the USAID, organized an Awareness Walk last Sunday at Hope Gardens to discuss this dangerous trend. Some 50 women and men formed groups to discuss such issues as street harassment, financial harassment, and various other areas of concerns. 
One gay young woman from an inner-city community said she was gang-raped and became pregnant. She went ahead and had the child, whom she loves dearly. She related to us that one of her attackers told her that she was lucky, ‘because if the don never dead you would get shot long time’.
Those who created these monsters, who are now beyond their control, should be hanging their heads in shame. They must make amends: fund scholarships for social workers so we can have them on the ground in these communities, start volunteer groups of mediators to detect family issues before they escalate. At the Stella Maris Foundation (SMF), psychology majors were invited to man a counselling post at our headquarters, a mutually beneficial project as they could extract data and anecdotal evidence for use in their theses. We saw a marked decrease in domestic violence because of this, and we are happy that Omar Frith, once SMF CEO is now at the Social Development Commission where he can introduce such a programme on a wider scale.

As churches celebrate the arrival of Christ, the life of Jesus is the template for their mission.  Beyond the Christmas treats and gift-giving, we need to examine how we can make a lasting impact on our communities. While I appreciate the efforts of colleagues on the National Prayer Breakfast Committee, and we have continued to support their publicity efforts, let us hope that their next event will be held at Emancipation Park.

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