Church Leaders Urged to Assist At-Risk Youth


Church leaders are being urged to assist in getting young people, deemed at risk, involved in the schedule of activities marking Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence.  

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon Lisa Hanna, made this call for greater intervention from the clergy, in light of the findings of a recent youth survey which revealed that a large number of at-risk youth feel detached from society, with little hope for the future.

Miss Hanna said it is important to, as best as possible, incorporate the target cohort, pointing out that if the country’s accomplishments are to be sustained over the next 50 years when the current generation takes over, then their mindset will have to be changed.

“The generation that is coming to take over the country’s debt, to continue the achievements that we have had, we really have to transform the culture and the mindset,” Miss Hanna said, as she addressed a group of church leaders and private sector representatives at a meeting, held at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston, on June 27.

The Minister lamented the “frightening things”  that are  happening to at-risk youth who have no “luster,” drive or enthusiasm, noting that many of them “see no future."

“Those focus groups (surveys) that we conducted in the 14 parishes, 70 per cent of all the persons who came as young people said they either wanted to commit suicide or they wanted to kill somebody. These are at-risk youth. There is a serious disconnect,” Miss Hanna said.

Against this background, she said the church can play a vital role in reining in these young persons, especially through the church services and other events to take place as part of the anniversary celebrations.

 “As a rural Member of Parliament, I know the benefit of the church and I know how integral the church is to persons. We are going to be having our parish church services. I would really like us to (go back) to that ‘ole time Jamaican sinting,’ where people really came out to feel Independence at their parish services on that particular day and even at the national service,” the Minister said.

“More  importantly, as we celebrate the 50 years going forward… we have to find ways to talk to them (youth) about civics, nationhood, culture and what is important and relevant to building the country,” she said.

The Minister pointed out that in putting together the marketing campaign for Jamaica 50, it was centred around the pledge, noting that Jamaica 50 is really about  a mission to take the country forward to the next 50 years and beyond, and that the young people are a key aspect of this thrust.

She further suggested that the church could also get the youth involved in the Jamaica 50 celebrations by “talking about the programme, talking to people about the legacy component of the programme, talking to people about fixing up their parishes, doing local events…flying the flag,” as well as other activities to demonstrate civic pride.

Pointing to the importance of synergies between government, the church, and the private sector, the Minister noted that she has been meeting with various stakeholders to discuss matters concerning the Jamaica 50 programme.

At  the  meeting, the clergymen and private sector representatives, who raised concerns and offered words of advice going forward, pledged their continued support in carrying out the programme of activities.

 

By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter

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