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Human rights concerns must always prevail, says priest

Observer staff reporter

Monday, December 11, 2017

A local priest yesterday called for more accountability among members of the security forces and those in positions of authority, while insisting that human rights must always prevail.

Reverend Father Sean Major-Campbell, while delivering the sermon in observance of International Human Rights Day under the theme 'Justice For One, Justice For All' yesterday at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, Kingston, said it is sad to see people divided on matters concerning the protection of all citizens.

“Recently, when those videos surfaced regarding the mothers who were shockingly beating their children without mercy, social media and call-in programmes were abuzz with persons making such comments as: 'The mother is under stress'; 'these girl children need to be disciplined'; 'this is a mother who wants the best for her child'; 'I wonder is what the child did?'; 'Pickney must get lick, as long as di machete nah chop nuhbody, yes dem fi get it'.

“I ask the question: Is it alright for us to take the same approach to a man who beats his wife or girlfriend or babymother? 'The man is under stress'; 'these women need to be disciplined'; 'this is a man who wants the best for his woman'; I wonder is what she do now?'; 'Woman must get lick, as long as di man nah chop har up, she must get di lick'.

“Regardless of our sociological context, human rights concerns must always prevail,” he said. “We would not have a debate concerning whether slavery should be honoured today, since it was upheld in the biblical world. It would not be up for discussion if any group suggested that we return to structural racist practices. And who would really believe that it is worth the while to consider degrees of severity and situation ethics to determine limited racist practice or limited return to the slave trade?”

Further, the priest added that while he salutes the prime minister's call for an end to corporal punishment, unfortunately for many professionals, they don't mention the infringement of human rights, except when they are writing academic papers.

“Many remain silent when they see evidence of assault occasioning bodily harm, since nuhbody neva dead and nuhbody neva blind.

“Today we heard from persons who have had the unfortunate experience of losing loved ones to police shootings. We will not be judge and jury. however, we recognise that many have suffered from indiscretions and abuse from agents of the State,” Major-Campbell said.

The priest was quick to point out that he is not advocating against the police as their work is difficult. However, he said regardless, we must hold them to a high standard.

“We must encourage their good work. And here, let us take pause and be reminded of the fact that it is in the best interest of Jamaica for an independent body such as INDECOM (Independent Commission of Investigations) to investigate police shootings,” he said.

Major-Campbell added: “We are concerned about the rights of Jamaican citizens even as we are concerned about the rights of our brothers and sisters in the region and the world at large, since as Martin Luther King Jr reminds us: 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'. We will use our human rights work to spread the message of hope, faith, joy, peace — all important advent themes which speak to the journey of human life.”

Yesterday's service, which featured messages from Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), Member of Parliament Julian Robinson, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, UNAIDS, and Jamaica Aids Support for Life, also had Yvonne Lee — mother of Matthew Lee, who was killed in 2013 by police on Arcadia Drive — share her pain. She also lauded the work of human rights groups and encouraged those in attendance to do their part to reduce such circumstances in society.

The service also had performances from The ASHE Company, Dr Michael Abrahams and a skit promoting peace performed by the Sunday school group.