Church leaders ready to die in crime fight

The Jamaican National Church Alliance a coalition of churches has made the unflinching declaration that members are ready to die in their bid to topple the crime beast that is wreaking havoc on the nation.

The coalition, which recently signed a memorandum of understanding solidifying an unwavering determination to dethrone the reigning kingpins of the criminal underworld, is being guided by a localised version of the Ten-Point Coalition Plan. The plan drastically reduced an explosion of youth homicides propelled by the advent of the crack and cocaine epidemic in Boston Massachusetts in the United States of America during the late 1980s to early 1990s, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

Reverend Eugene Rivers, who co-developed the Boston model along with a young drug dealer, told The Sunday Gleaner that the direct approach employed by the plan could reap great results for the island but not without presenting a serious threat to the lives of those enforcing it.

“Jamaica is in the midst of an undeclared civil war with criminal elements against the Jamaican civil society … There will be casualties, difficulties and there may be martyrs,” warned Rev. Rivers.

The renowned Rev. Rivers revealed that his residence was sprayed with bullets twice and burglarised on numerous occasions by gang-bangers who felt slighted because they were losing their grip on the community.

“… My three-year-old son was just shy of being murdered … There was shooting and threats but by the grace of God, there were no deaths.”

However, Rev. Rivers explained that Jamaica’s horrific homicide rate dwarfed the Boston experience. “The crisis here is worse than anything we experienced in Boston. The 169 murders in a month here would be a crisis if Boston had that in a year,” he said.

Still, the members of the local clergy refuse to be deterred in their quest to quench the violence that has the nation in a stranglehold. “Even though our knees may be trembling, we must be courageous and go forward. We are not looking for a lot of casualties, but it is something that can happen,” echoed Major Richard Cooke, chairman of the National Church Alliance (NCA).

The ex-army man who is now employed to the Ministry of National Security consoled himself and colleagues. “One of the things that the Lord Jesus said to us is that greater love hath no man than this that a man would lay down his life for his friend.”

Pastor Franz Fletcher, elder at Family Church on the Rock, reiterated this unwavering stance. “The driving force behind our hearts is to see our country restored, so whatever it takes … It might cost me my life but it doesn’t matter. If ever we are going to rescue this country, we will have to lay our lives on the line,” stressed Pastor Fletcher.

Rev. Rivers also cautioned that the Ten-Point Plan does not offer a quick fix. He said at least 24 months should be given before harvest time. What is needed this time is to arouse public interest and support as well as to strategically implement the “ground game”, he said.

The coalition’s plan will be implemented in stages. One of the phases already in progress is the adopt- a-corner, which was copied from the Boston’s adopt-a-gang programme.

Major Cooke said this programme targets youths ‘locking’ the street corners of the inner-city communities and offers them a positive alternative to the drugs and crime. This programme of engagement is numbered among the twelve points on the localised coalition plan, which has two more points than its predecessor, the Boston model.

Another initiative that will be given priority in the short run by the NCA is the restorative justice programme. Pastor Fletcher told The Sunday Gleaner that the aforementioned initiative is three-fold. It involves pre-advocacy, advocacy and rehabilitation of persons who have broken the law.

Pastor Fletcher revealed to The Sunday Gleaner that the sentence hearing of a young man late last year gave birth to the initiative.

The first-time offender, who was staring in the face of a thirteen-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm, was sentenced to custody of the church under the care of Pastor Fletcher.

Pastor Fletcher said after being a character witness at the hearing for the juvenile from the inner city who attended the Family Church on the Rock for years, the lenient judge decided against giving him the thirteen years at hard labour.

Pastor Fletcher revealed that plans are afoot to have the restorative justice initiative, which involves, “monitoring, mentoring and ministering,” implemented on a wider scale.

Major Cooke added that another short-term goal is the staging of a national day of humbling under the banner of ‘The Day of Truth, Change and Reconciliation’. The NCA is looking to stage this either in August or October.

As it relates to funding, Major Cooke said while the NCA has received commitments from agencies and is looking forward to partnering with the private sector, the initial set of initiatives will be funded from coffers of the various churches.

The NCA campaign against crime is yet to hit full speed as it is currently working on strategic and business plans that should be ready within the next two months.

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