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Anglican House of Bishops call for mentoring program to deal with social issues

­The leaders of the Anglican Church in the Province of The West Indies have charged each Diocese to develop a mentoring program to deal with social issues as they acknowledged the escalating level of crime and violence in the country.

“While we have no doubt that there are diverse contributing factors to these problems, we are equally clear that the solution is not to be found merely in the pursuit of a penal approach, through more vigilant policing,  and the promotion of a more efficient justice system,” said The Right Reverend Laish Boyd, Diocesan Bishop of The Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands, in a written statement.

Bishop Boyd said the church is of the opinion that a more proactive approach which seeks to be preventative than punitive, would constitute a more creative and Christian approach to the situation.  The conclusion was reached at the recent Anglican House of Bishops of the Province of the West Indies meeting in Nassau.

“We take note of the fact that the primary perpetrators of crime and violence in our Caribbean lands are young men between the ages of 15-25, through involvement in gangs and other antisocial activities.  Anecdotal and other evidences point to the fact that many of these young men are lacking parental presence and support in the form of their fathers.  In the majority of instances, but to a lesser extent, they also lack parental guidance from mothers; being abandoned to the care of grandmothers, other members of the extended family and even strangers.  Many are left to fend for themselves.  We also observe that in many instances, even where there is the presence of some family support, the unit was lacking the material and emotional resources to support the basic needs of these young men.”

Bishop Boyd said various cases can be cited in which magistrates of the courts are disposed to having to explore various avenues for remedial intervention in the lives of the young men who appear before them, but often cannot identify such resources or, those identified, were already overloaded.  The premise of such responses by the magistrates he said is the assumption that if the young men are provided with appropriate mentoring and support, given the absence of that and support in the home setting, he said could result in transformation and the pursuit of a more positive path in life by them.

The Anglican priest said it is also women as well as men who run afoul of the law, that is cause for concern because they are at-risk for failure in the school system as  pursuit of antisocial activities because of a similar experience of deficiencies in the home and in the support systems are available to them.

He said they have observed cases that have had mentoring interventions, that have had positive outcomes, even though they have not always been successful.

“As bishops, we are convinced that the church has an important role to play in pursuing preventative and remedial strategies which may rehabilitate these youngsters through an intentional program of mentoring, willingly undertaken by clergy and laity of the church.”

Bishop Boyd said mentoring is a discipline with requisite attitudes and skills if it is to be effectively pursued.  He said mentoring is not something to be undertaken only by people with academic credentials and advanced learning, but something which begins with commitment and a spirit of self-giving.

“It is recognized at the same time that mentoring, undertaken without proper orientation and training may be counterproductive or destructive.  The task of equipping persons for the work of mentoring can be undertaken by various resource persons within our various territories and dioceses who have received special training in this field and are often willing to share these with interested persons.”

Bishop Boyd said they encourage each Diocese to undertake a thrust which is centered around mentoring and, where that already exists in part, to strengthen such efforts. He said such a focus can be congregation based, serving the youth of the congregation and community, as well as those in schools which are connected to Anglican churches.  He said individuals and groups may also be challenged to see such a focus as a part of the ministry to the youth of the wider non-church community.

At another level, however, the Bishop says a more formal and proactive approach which involves partnerships with the officers of the justice system may be pursued in the various territories.

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