JIS News

More than 20 umbrella church groups have given their support for Peace Month activities that will be staged from February 6 to March 4 this year. They were responding to an invitation from the Co-Chair for the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), Professor Barry Chevannes, who asked the church leaders to join the Peace Day rally on March 4 and “swell the river for Peace.”
The annual peace campaign brings together all agencies, stakeholders and individuals working for peace.
Speaking at a meeting of church leaders on January 24, hosted by the VPA, Reverend Ian Muirhead of the Greater Grants Pen Ministers’ Fraternal asserted that when churches become more socially engaged and creative in their intervention programmes, they help to tackle the mounting challenge of crime and violence in communities.
The meeting, held at the office of the VPA on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), involved discussions on the church’s involvement in violence prevention activities.
Pledging his organisation’s support for the month of activities and in particular the Peace March and Rally, Rev. Muirhead said that when a community is discouraged and hopeless and a group of persons walk through and proclaim peace, it is an encouraging activity that strengthens the people.
“It helps to promote unity, reduce the tension and we never leave out spiritual warfare, as the church recognizes this element in the fight against violence,” he said, while reflecting on the success of his group’s Unity March held in the Grants Pen community in Kingston, in June last year. Local marches, he said, could be organized by his group and others leading up to Peace Day to bring hope to the residents.
Addressing the church leaders, Co-Chair of the VPA, Dr. Elizabeth Ward stressed that the church is a vital link in violence prevention and applauded their positive response to the VPA. She commended the variety of social intervention programmes that were highlighted.
In his contribution, Pastor Maurice Reid of the Seventh Day Adventist Church said: “We believe in hope, and we are sensitive to the crime situation in our country.”
He outlined that when critically analysed, findings show a breakdown in the family structure, fragmented homes and low self esteem among young people. As a result his organization has developed programmes to save the family.
In the meantime, Monsignor Richard Albert spoke of the Crime Prevention Committee, spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Church, that was operating in Spanish Town. He noted that they have become a pressure group to facilitate social programmes for the community.
Turning their attention to Trench Town and other inner city communities in Kingston, Dr. Henley Morgan told the group about the business incubators that were being established and mentioned the desire of the residents for the commercial sector to enter these communities and better serve them. Dr. Morgan also highlighted his faith-based initiative which, he said, was making a tremendous difference in the lives of the residents.
Other groups that were represented at the meeting include the Churches Violence Prevention Network, the Jamaica Pentecostal Union, Mona Baptist, Jamaica Child Evangelism Fellowship and the United Theological College.
Peace Month will be observed under the theme: ‘Peace for Prosperity’ and the activities are being spearheaded by the VPA, the public outreach arm of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security of the UWI.
The VPA is a non-governmental organization supported by the Ministries of National Security, Health, Environment and Education as well as a network of non-governmental, private and community-based organizations.

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