Can we mix Christian charity and pragmatism to create low-income housing In Jamaica?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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“And Jesus said unto him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.'” (Luke 9: 58-62)

The churches in Jamaica have been heavily criticised, time and again, by leading commentators and pundits in the media for its apathy in treating with the welfare of not only its members but also, in general, the wider community.

Granted, many of its major critics are beneficiaries of the church's generosity, especially in the areas of reading. writing, and arithmetic — perish the thought, however, of “don't bite the hand that feeds you”.

Now, are some criticisms levelled at the churches legitimate? Certainly, but not to the extent of “bun church” or “feel like bombing a church”, because that's talking blues.

That said, the churches in Jamaica are reported to be the second-largest landowners in Jamaica, only bested by the Government.

In fact, the churches are said to have so much land that they have failed to a large extent of keeping track and an accurate record of their landholdings, which in of itself is a severe indictment on their stewardship.

The traditional churches with the highest percentage of land, for the most part, have halted church planting, and in many cases, only have a handful of people showing up for church on a Sunday — do they still need these large edifices?

Furthermore, it now seems that the older churches have divested themselves of setting up new buildings, thus leaving that venture to the more modern conservative evangelical-type churches.

So, today, for the most part, a lot of the land owned collectively by churches are either left idle or taken over by squatters — an emerging phenomenon in the country where law and order have given way to indiscipline, criminal order, and donmanship.

The truth is Jamaica has a very high percentage of not only landless but shelterless people.

Moreover, landlords are becoming more rapacious and merciless as rent continues its astronomical climb.

The question, therefore, is: Can the church find it in its heart to work with both government and non-governmental organisations to save some Jamaicans from the indignity of squatting and hungry and greedy landlords?

In church speak, a 10 per cent allocation of the churches' landholding to this worthy cause may be all that is required to help some people, especially those falling through the cracks.

The churches assuming this role would not be out of step with what obtains in some industrial countries. For example, in the US churches are taking a position on the front lines of helping to deal with the affordable housing crisis, using their land to create new affordable housing developments.

The fact of the matter is today is as good a time as any to mix Christian charity and pragmatism in creating low-income housing, especially for church members.

For far too long many Jamaicans have been singing, “Cold ground was my bed last night (bed last night), And rock was my pillow, too (doo-oo-oo-oo-oo!).”

Let's remind ourselves: “Well done is better than well said.”

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