Recently, The Bahamas was informed of a most heinous crime that resulted in the death of a defenseless young child, Bella. Like all Bahamians, I, too, was heartbroken when I heard the announcement. There were multiple messages of outrage and calls to action. Many recommendations and suggestions came forth and are still coming forth. Unfortunately, these things continue to happen every day, many not resulting in physical death but death nonetheless when we look at the deep emotional scars that result. Many of these children are left with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and if they don’t receive help, they end up with addictive behavior, become abusers themselves or end up with long-lasting mental illness. No matter how we look at it, they are scarred for life. This brings us to the question of: what should our response be?
There are several levels of response I would like to look at but response on every level is essential. At times, there is a high-intensity response close to the event, then we return to the status quo until another story appears in the headlines. If we are going to see real change and the results we desire, our response needs to be sustained on many levels. Let’s take a look at some of these levels of response:
1. Systemic – Systemic response involves implementing or enhancing laws and penalties to ensure that perpetrators and potential perpetrators are apprehended and dealt with in a way that protects our society and our children. Another aspect of systemic response is ensuring that all agencies and institutions that are or can be equipped to prevent abuse are properly educated, funded and appropriately staffed with professionals and supplementary personnel.
2. Strategic partners – Governmental action by itself will not solve the issue. We must ensure that strategic partners are engaged and response is coordinated. For example, churches, non-profits and NGO’s that can play a role are brought together and given a concrete plan of action to follow. There should be some type of database established and monitoring mechanism to track how the response is going and what adjustments need to be made.
3. Community – Our communities in general need to be better informed on how to spot and respond to signs of abuse. According to reports, the child may have been left at home alone with no food and went to neighbors begging for food. Surely, this should have been recognized as a sign of abuse and reported before it ended in tragedy. The same way we have crime watch committees, these watch committees can extend their knowledge base to include potential crimes within communities. Perhaps community monitors can be established in every community to be on the lookout and notify the appropriate authorities if they see something untoward.
4. Individual – Individual response is sometimes the hardest because people often express outrage but do nothing individually. If you are disturbed and alarmed, it should generate individual action. What are you going to do? Everyone can pray but everyone can also act or help those who are on the front lines. It is not enough to express outrage year after year, then return to business as usual. Is there an organization that is helping to save children? If so, go and volunteer your time. If you cannot volunteer your time, you can give to those organizations that are actively engaged. There are several children’s homes, churches, non-profit organizations and the like who are on the front lines and in need of funding, supplies, equipment or other resources that every one of us can assist with in some small way.
My question in these situations is what are you going to do, not what are you going to say? I have already upped my personal commitment and I am activating teams I have jurisdiction over to begin implementing a strategy to make a difference. I encourage everyone reading this to make a similar commitment. Let it not be said that we had outrage today and that was the end of it; we need more decisive and sustained action, and we need to begin now. Will you take the first step? Remember the words of Jesus, “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.” Jesus also said if you assist one of these little ones, your reward is great. Please respond with action and not just words.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@ hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.