Will our churches take up the GG's challenge?
Last Thursday church leaders gathered at a meeting called by our inspiring Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, in continuation of a joint appeal from himself, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition earlier this year, headlined "Call to all Jamaicans for reflection and reconciliation".
Sir Patrick explained the significance of the day: "Thousands of years ago, May 1 was the spring festival celebrating earth's renewal. A century ago May Day was linked with the worker's struggle for social and economic rights and later became accepted as International Labour Day. The third meaning of May-Day is the international radio distress call used by ships and aircraft.
"These three meanings may be relevant to what we seek on this symbolic day to call on the church to unite our Christian family in the struggle to rescue Jamaica from the looming destruction of crime and violence. I repeat! Our island paradise is suffering from economic stagnation, declining values and is slowly sinking in the Caribbean sea of crime!"
We have to agree with Sir Patrick. When we consider the number of churches in our country spouting the word of God from their pulpits, and the abject misery of our people, it gives us cause to pause. As a wise person once said, "we can be so heavenly focused, that we are no earthly good!"
The GG appealed: "As we move forward, my brothers and sisters, in one accord, we must work assiduously to be all-inclusive, listen to each other, complement initiatives that are already in progress and affirm and support those working to build our nation.
"I plead with you to leave your proselytising, theological differences and contentions and other biases out of the equation ...," he urged. "I encourage you to collaborate with someone with whom you never associated before and experience the joy of knowing that we are not really as different as we think... ideas will emerge as to how best the Church can take the lead in steering Jamaica back to paths of truth, peace and good neighbourliness."
Two days later we observed World Press Freedom Day, on Saturday, and even as we congratulated ourselves as having such a high rating for press freedom in Jamaica, we need to ask ourselves how can the media participate in this healing process.
The GG noted: "Many of you are already using the media, in addition to the great work being done by our Christian radio stations along with Love, NCU and Power of Faith Ministries TV. I wonder whether we could contemplate joint sponsorship of programmes for fostering Christian values and attitudes in ways which could grab the attention of our young people and adults alike."
He asked them to "think of new ways for more effectively using print, electronic media and social media. For churches and denominations which have websites, you might want to consider enhancing them for greater impact on the unchurched."
At the event, Helene Coley-Nicholson, journalist and a member of the Jamaica Lawyers' Christian Fellowship noted our 2001 census figures for religions: Church of God, 24 per cent; Seventh-day Adventist, 11 per cent; Pentecostal, 10 per cent; Baptist, seven per cent; Anglican, four per cent; Roman Catholic, two per cent; United Church, two per cent; Methodist, two per cent; Jehovah's Witnesses, two per cent; Moravian, one per cent; Brethren, one per cent; unstated, three per cent; and 'other', 10 per cent."
Helene said: "The category 'other' includes an estimated 24,020 Rastafarians, 5,000 Muslims, 1,453 Hindus, 350 Jews, and 279 Baha'is. The census reported that 21 per cent claimed no religious affiliation." The Multi-Faith Group, founded by Rev Ashley Smith and Professor Ajai Mansingh, mentored by none other than retired Governor General Sir Howard Cooke, and convened now by Dr Martin Schade, includes all of these religions.
I support Helene's proposal that there be "a National Religious Media Production House". We need to put the brains of all our religions to good use, not just to move people from the pulpit, but to move the country onto the path of righteousness. This requires the unity and openness called for by our Governor General. Let the churches say... Amen!
Soft spot for Minister Paulwell
It is true. I do have a soft spot for Minister Phillip Paulwell. To resist the pressures of those in positions of privilege and deliver the Fair Trading Competition Act and the liberalisation of our telecoms industry required a great deal of hard work and perseverance. Even the harshest critics of Minister Paulwell will agree that he is one of the most diligent and most punctual of Government ministers. Alas, his selectee to deliver our long-awaited lost-cost energy, EWI, has not been as punctual.
The EWI issue is most unfortunate and we hope that the PSOJ/JCC/JMA recommendation of a brand new approach will be accepted. We have heard the howls of protest and the calls for Mr Paulwell's resignation. We are so sorry that things have come to this pass, and we are hoping that this situation can be resolved without us losing this high-achieving minister.
South Africa's 20th Anniversary of Freedom
Last Monday evening South African High Commissioner Mathu Joyini hosted a celebration of her country's 20th year of democratic rule. The gracious Mrs Joyini said that her country's struggle would never have succeeded without the support of the international community, and singled out Jamaica for special mention. She recalled that, as far back as 1928, our first National Hero Marcus Garvey had petitioned the League of Nations for the freedom of the South African people. She noted that for their anti-apartheid activism, both late PM Michael Manley and former PM P J Patterson received her country's highest national honour.
She said that as soon as their new government was in place, Jamaica was one of the first countries with which South Africa established diplomatic ties, and so we were also celebrating this 20-year bond. She noted the various places in Jamaica named for her late great leader, Nelson Mandela. HE Joyini said that, as her country addresses its challenges, there was consensus that the economy had grown three-fold, and that they had doubled their number of tertiary students.
We salute the courageous South Africans on the achievement of their 20th anniversary milestone.
CCRP celebrates four years... and the digital age
Dr Jean Small gave an entertaining presentation on culture as the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) celebrated its fourth anniversary at their AGM last Tuesday. CCRP members enjoyed learning how to make the most of their smartphones, courtesy of 'Digicel Data Doctor' Altonie Thomas and the company's PR Manager Jacquie Burrell-Clarke. Before anyone knew it, they were taking selfies and having a jolly good time. They were glad to learn the various features that would enhance their personal safety and wellness.
Those sharing the occasion included: Chair Prof Denise Eldemire Shearer, Honorary Director Prof Sir Kenneth Hall; board members Syringa Marshall-Burnett, Hermine Metcalfe, Sharon Deheney Walker, and Mike Fraser; lead volunteers Vilma McDonald, Irene Walter, Margaret Ferguson, Shirley Tavares and Donna-Maria Freckleton; support team Dorett Linton, Angela Foote and Annie Watkins.