We are always in God’s hands – Archbishop at La Divina Pastora
April 28, 2021
Easter story is about life, family
April 28, 2021

Church leaders speak out on crime, policing, SoEs


In the face of “alarming” stories of crime and violence that have filled the news over the course of the past few months, Jamaica’s Catholic bishops say they have an “obligation” to respond.

In a joint statement issued April 19, Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Bishop Burchell McPherson of Montego Bay, and Bishop John Persaud of Mandeville say families, communities, and social and economic progress are being torn apart by violence. Faith, too, is being “tested” by violence, the Bishops said.

To this end, the Bishops made a special commitment to the interests of the most vulnerable and to the cause of justice, peace, and social order in Jamaican society.

“So, we are constrained to guide our members and all people of good will to commit ourselves to specific action to avert crime and promote authentic and holistic human development. We hope that people will support our reasoning and do all in their power to abate this most serious national crisis,” the statement said.

The Bishops asserted that their commitment is to defend and promote the value and dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.

A Jamaica Observer article dated April 4 reported “just about 90 days into 2021 and already over 250 Jamaicans have been slaughtered”. The country’s murder rate “exceeds” that of some war-torn countries, the publication said.

“We assert that people are not born criminals. All of us learn behaviour patterns—positive and negative—from our parents, families, church, schools, the media, and the wider community,” the Bishops said.

They continued saying that a stable, nurturing family is the most important factor in ensuring a child’s educational success and wholesome development.

“Our message is simple and direct. Fathers and mothers: if you want your child to do well and avoid getting sucked into antisocial conduct, find a way to stick together and give your children the best education and upbringing possible. We undertake to offer the strongest support for this.”



The Bishops said they particularly support the presence and full involvement of fathers in their children’s lives to share—equally with mothers—the tasks of parenting.

They commented while efforts to improve educational outcomes have focused on attaining higher levels of student achievement on examinations, they affirm equal priority of character formation as the “ultimate goal” of true education.

In line with national policy for educational transformation, the Catholic Church in Jamaica has recommitted to emphasising values and practices of self-respect, respect for others, discipline, honesty, truth, responsibility for oneself, and a strong work and patriotic ethic to its young people in their more than 100 schools.

“We promise to stir up in our churches the commitment to mentor vulnerable youth in our schools and communities,” the statement said.

They support the expansion of uniformed groups, and other character-building co-curricular activities for all young people. Among their recommendations include the assignment of social workers and positive culture animators in all schools and that schools with many children from under-resourced homes receive special support from the State and community.

They reiterated, “We commit to reduce, and eventually end, drop-outs from our schools. We will do everything possible to prevent young people leaving school without reasonable certification in literacy, numeracy and at least one employable skill as well as exposure to good moral values.”



Also encouraged by the Bishops is the use of all legal and constitutional measures by the security forces to quell crime. Given the principles of personal freedom and human dignity which are enshrined in the gospel and the Charter of Rights, “we cannot support States of Emergency as a long-term crime-fighting measure, and we stand resolutely opposed to preventive detention and imprisonment without recourse to the Courts.”

The statement highlighted there is an urgent need to change the culture of the Jamaica Constabulary Force which presently attracts “mistrust” by very many people.

“We support an emphasis on community policing whereby neighbourhoods can gain confidence in their protectors, the Police can gain intelligence, and a culture of order and lawfulness can be strengthened.”

Being fully aware of the cruel and chronic inequalities of class and wealth in the nation, Jamaicans were urged to contemplate a radical reset of how the annual Budget is spent, how private wealth is gained and used. All should be directed towards the gospel imperatives of caring and sharing.

Further to this, they endorse all efforts designed to bring about an end to corruption of all kinds and insist on higher levels of consensus between the two major political parties on resolving the issues of criminal violence. Political engagement, they say, ought to be an exercise of Christian virtue designed to protect and enlarge the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of all—not to elevate special interests.

“Let all in political life put aside selfishness and egotism. As Church, we commend those elected or appointed to public service and insist that they hold themselves and all of us, to the highest, ethical, and moral standards,” the statement ended.