There is still hope
With a staggering 125-murder count, and a steady stream of violence marking 2011, for most Bahamians this signals the country’s abandonment of Christian beliefs. For others it indicates a break down of the family. In the face of the grim crime-related statistics, there is still hope and all citizens of the country have a role to play in turning the trend and recreating the safe Bahamas of their forefathers.
Contrary to belief the problems facing Bahamian society are not a reflection of the decline in morality of all members of the public according to Bishop Laish Boyd, head of the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. He says the root of the dilemma lies in a small group of people who have truly lost their way.
“The vast majority of people in our country are good and live by values that can benefit us all, but amidst all of this, there are also some people — a small percentage, who do not value life the way they should, and when it comes to resolving a conflict nothing is unacceptable,” said Bishop Boyd. “I feel it is up to the people in society who are still doing good to keep on doing what needs to be done in this coming year so that God’s message of goodwill and peace can reach those who may not hear it.”
And it’s not just about preaching the Word, but living it and finding ways to reach out to those who are less fortunate. People can make a difference in society by creating job opportunities, helping people to have a better sense of self-worth and ensuring there is justice for those who are wrong. The Bishop says it will be the small changes that can strengthen society again.
“It is also essential for us to deepen our own personal relationships with God and our commitment to His purposes. You have to continue into this new year working without getting tired. It is all too easy to be discouraged, but we need to keep on working, living and envisioning a better Bahamas and a better world. This all starts with a better home and community. The Yuletide song says ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’, so it’s only natural that the journey to rebuilding the society starts with individuals within the home. This can be done by spending time with family members — especially the children. Ensure you get to know them and help them with their education and development. Show them a vision of what they can become through education. Teach them the right value and let them see in you the kind of respect, consideration, love for others and country that you expect of them. There are many homes who are doing this, but for those who are not you can do your part in restoring society by starting with these small changes in your home life.”
The Anglican priest says you should also make a change in your community by getting to know your neighbors again and being neighborly. With the lives people lead, he says it is difficult, but that people have to do their best to stay in touch and share life. He urged Bahamians to continue to be a family, and share their thoughts and values with their neighbors. He says not everyone will be successful, but the country has to be built up by first building the morality and love within neighborhoods.
Pastor Paul Scavella, president of the South Bahamas Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists says a crumbling foundation of values is the root of the nation’s problems. He says most older Bahamians grew up on a strong foundation where the family was king and the society was just an extension of the home and not an entirely foreign environment. The family was steeped in religion and Christian values that were all but taboo to break. Nowadays, he says there is not such a strict line which means many people are left to their own devices when it comes to their morality.
“I think the problem with society is a break down of Christan values that we as a country grew up on that were transmitted through proper parenting. It has now been exchanged for new values that are perpetrated through the media, music and movies that tell us that God is not important anymore. Statistics show that Christianity is on the decline in the western world and secularism is becoming the order of the day. This new train of thought basically teaches that we as human beings are self-sufficient and don’t need God,” says the minister. “It is due to these beliefs that many people cannot see a way out of troubling situations than dealing with it themselves — whether it means lying, stealing, killing someone who stands in their way or ending their life when they are so deep in their distress.”
To right the situation, the Seventh-day minister says people need to go back to the basics. As a people, he says there is a need to return to God and turn from living for themselves.
“We need to return to being governed by the principles of the word of God. If we do not, we will continue to be unrestrained. And since it is in human nature to be wicked, there will not be ceasing to our troubles in the future. So [in the new year] all citizens need to reaffirm their faith, and let the spirit of God guide them on the right paths.”
The rise in crime and violence in the country is related to a lack of respect for the sacredness of life, an increase in greed, and the inability to solve domestic disputes says Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church president, Reverend Christopher Neely.
“As Christians you should believe that life is sacred. We believe that when God formed humankind, God breathed the breath of life into his or her nostrils. We also believe that humankind is made in the image and likeness of the Creator and charged with the responsibility of caring for God’s creation. It is sad, but true, our society no longer lives by Christian values and the wisdom of Scriptures. We now live by taking the law into our own hands.”
Rev. Neely says greed is another major problem for the country. And that the preoccupation with accumulating material things allows the spirit of avarice to overtake people.
“They are never satisfied with what they have. They will eventually value material possessions over God, and it is this very thing that is manifesting itself in society especially in the illegal drugs culture — seen by many as a get rich quick option. Too many of our young men and women are attracted to this lifestyle. They drop out of school at an early age and refuse to do an honest day’s labor. Instead, they take what they want by force — even if it means death, shooting another fellow drug dealer in gang warfare. This is our reality and we need to change it by teaching our children values and what it means to be a good citizen by our own examples.”
The Methodist chief says the domestic front of society must also be improved upon in the coming year. And that families must learn how to solve their disputes and learn that there are other measures than stabbing or shooting a loved one. He said they must be willing to allow the law to run its course. He said it would also be helpful if they would pursue a mediator such as another neutral person or entity, when there seems to be no resolution of the dispute.
“The Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church is concerned with the way our society is going and wants to call upon all to seek reconciliation with God, family and others. I believe that beyond all the other measures already tried this will have the greatest of impact for putting a dent in the murder count and the crime that we are experiencing,” says Reverend Neely.