A worsening situation
With the country reportedly recording its highest murder rate in history–88–and 29 days before the new year rolls around, the question being asked is: “What is happening to this ‘religious’ nation?” And whether The Bahamas is becoming another wild, wild west.
The soaring murder count which surpassed the 2009 previous record of 87, has a number of local pastors feeling that something is definitely amiss and that it is long overdue that something more needs to be done about the worsening situation.
Bishop Arnold Josey, senior pastor at Commonwealth Mission Baptist Church who is also a former police officer, expressed disappointment with the current crime situation, and says he is more upset because there is so much more that can be done to curb the violence and murders.
“Things look bad now but there is a way to make it better if we as a community led by more proactive leadership worked together better,” said Bishop Josey.
He said he’s seen violence of a high magnitude in his own community of Yamacraw and remembers days when there were regular cases of shootings and stabbings between young persons in the area and the Fox Hill community. With the help and support of the church and the community he said the violent attitude was turned around. But he admits it was not an easy task.
“It took individual effort on my part and that of others in the community to get through to the perpetrators. It took sitting down with the youth and finding out what exactly is going on.”
To deal with the country’s current situation, Bishop Josey says it will take persistence on the part of authorities, especially as he says there is a”code”which says the perpetrators not speak to the “P’s”–police, politicians or priests. But he says even if the”troubled” persons aren’t interested in talking to them, the authorities and church need to talk to them and get to know their insecurities.
Today, Bishop Josey says he talks to the young men in the community and their need to be understood, accepted and respected is granted by the community. For those that have violent thoughts on their mind he says they need to be made to understand that they don’t need to resort to violence.
“Many of them still call me when they need to and we talk. I sit and chat with others and I always keep my[vehicle]window down when I’m driving through the area so that I am aware of what is going on.”
He said more pastors need to be vigilant and open and need to walk around their neighborhoods and talk to the people instead of distancing themselves.”Get involved and get your church and the community active in properly guiding the young people. This is what we need. We have to stop assuming that someone else will do the job since it is everyone’s business. Don’t pass the responsibility along–take some on yourself and do your part,”he urged.
The man of the cloth who at one point also was a member of the “long arm of the law,” isn’t only talking, but offering solutions. His suggestion is that old programs established to combat violence amongst the youth be re-instated or revamped.
“Programs like the Urban Renewal project that was once under the guidance of the Royal Bahamas Police Force should be returned to that organization because it not only helped the young people but also gave the police an upper-hand in preventing crime due to constant patrolling of the area and people coming in to the centers who gave information freely.”
Bishop Josey says the national youth service project which ran as a pilot program in 2005-6 should also be retried because it was trying to find a proper balance on how to reform young juveniles and those at high risk so that problems wouldn’t escalate to the situation as it is today.
He also says it would also do some good if the court systems and the Bail Act in particular were improved instead of just being talked about. Bishop Josey says it is important at this point to just do something instead of just thinking of what to do, because nothing will continue to be done if things don’t change.
Bishop Ros Davis, head pastor of Golden Gates World Outreach Ministries on Carmichael Road, also believes something is wrong societally and that it is time for people to make changes on a personal level, but he would not lay the tag “wild, wild west” on the country.
“What is happening in our country now is a result of our sowing what we have been reaping. What we see is how we have been living. We’ve been living without regard for the law and by the rule that it is every man for himself. No one is caring for the things of his brother anymore.”
Bishop Davis says the blame for what is happening in the country now rests with everyone.
“These children . . . young people, or whoever it is committing these crimes come from our homes and from under our upbringing and guidance. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming someone we need to step back and re-evaluate our methods of raising our children as a family, a church, a community, a nation. If we can find the key and just revert back to those times when respect was everything maybe things would be better.”
The pastor believes the blatant disrespect of the law and other authorities, and a system that is failing people again and again has resulted in the increase in crime as people lost faith in justice being served legally. He says that now that so many people are not seeing the courts punish offenders, persons have developed a disregard for life and are quick to eliminate persons who harm them for the simplest reasons.
“It is sad and a pity that we have come to this,” said Davis.
The popular pastor said he believes the church has been doing what it can and only continue to support, preach and pray for the nation and the people. He says the church should continue to push for better values to be instilled in children and adults, even though he knows the church can’t force people to change, but that he and other Christians can only hope and pray that they do.
“The way I look at it, there are people made up of different soils. The wayside soil is the person who is insensitive, careless and hardened. No matter what you say they will not hear and nothing is retained within them.
The shallow soil person will hear you, but because they are shallow everything is easily washed away and still not retained. No good can be sustained.
The person like the soil of worldliness will hear the message but their own ideas and other influences choke the message and it never really takes root properly as other things get in the way.
Now the good soiled person is what we need more of. They hear and will live accordingly. We can only hope that more people out there make the personal decision to change their ways and listen before it is too late. We can do nothing more until people make the choice,” he said.
The senior pastor says that the process of change will not come overnight as the country did not arrive at this state overnight. He said there is no quick fix answer or magic wand to make it all better, but he said God’s power will prevail and until then everyone should have faith and never give up hope.