Wisdom, political unity and the message to criminals

Henry J

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

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Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. — Charles Spurgeon

Last week I retreated to a quiet space where I sometimes reflect, read and write. I opened my laptop to catch up on some news. Without searching the headline 'Philippines vow to crush these 'godless criminal' after church bomb kills 20' caught my attention. Right below the headline were images of soldiers fully outfitted in army fatigue with high-powered weapons standing around what appeared to be a crime scene. Almost automatically the primed images of soldiers dressed in uniform populated my mind — A familiar scene in Jamaica during the just-ended state of emergency as the security forces (Jamaica Defence Force and Jamaica Force) tried to take control of corridors in St James, sections of St Catherine and parts of Kingston.

I continued reading: “The attack wounded 81 and was one of the deadliest in recent years in a region long plagued by instability. It came amid hope and excitement about the ratification of a devolution plan that aims to bring development, jobs, and peace to one of Asia's poorest and most volatile places.

“The first explosion went off inside the cathedral on Jolo island, in Sulu province, and was followed by a second blast outside, which was detonated as security forces raced to the scene, officials said.”

It was the Government's response to this heinous crime that stirred my interest even more in the article. Salvador Panelo, a spokesman of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said: “The enemies of the State have boldly challenged the capability of the Government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region.”

Enemies of the State

I don't know about you, but I don't get the sense that the Government and Opposition, separate and together, are sending a clear message to the criminals this country — gangs, dons, gunmen, those who have no respect for the life of man, woman or child inside and outside the church — that they are the enemy of the State. No message is being sent to them to let them know that they should not challenge the capability and combined strength of the Government and Opposition, within the ambit of the law, to secure the safety of the citizenry in this county. Instead, what we get is the insufficiencies of politics — a Government and an Opposition who cannot come to together and agree on how to save lives from being snuffed out by enemies of the state; it's all about political power play.

It is not rocket science that political unity is a crucial element in winning the war on criminals. Peacefulness is not an inbuilt tenet of criminals. God, but I am convinced that the well-organised criminal networks in this county are laughing and saying to themselves, “Look at these fools. They can't even work together to defeat us; and they call themselves Government and Opposition.”

Politicians need wisdom

As I flipped through the newsfeed I landed on a News 24 article headlined 'We have forgiven Zuma, says Malema'. For those who don't know, Julius Sello Malema is a South African Member of Parliament and the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters — a far-left South African political party which he founded in July 2013. He previously served as president of the African National Congress Youth League from 2008 to 2012.

A few Sundays ago Malema attended a church service at Apostolic Faith Mission River of Life and something special happened to him. He said that the church service had moved him to forgive former President Jacob Zuma. He said the sermon moved him, and having attended the service for the wisdom, he was inspired by the sermon from the pastor.

Last year news broke that after close to a decade the African National Congress (ANC) politicians visited the Zion Christian Church's holy land, Moria in Limpopo. A spokesperson for the party said, “The visit was undertaken as part of the ANC's revolutionary pilgrimage to seek spiritual wisdom and counsel and to thank the church for its continuous prayers for the ANC. South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa reported that the visit was also to ask the church for its continued blessings, and to get prayers from the church for the ANC as it undertakes its mandate to improve the lives of the people of South Africa.

Andrew and Peter in church?

Immediately my mind ran on Jamaican politicians, especially the prime minister and the Opposition leader, who sometimes attend church when their schedules allow them. I was thinking, given the national security issues we face in Jamaica, both the prime minister and leader of the Opposition should plan a date to attend church together (Saturday or Sunday) for the sole purpose of seeking wisdom to address the issues of crime and violence in this county. I am not talking about a symbolic gesture for photo ops. I am talking about out of genuine concern for the well-being of all Jamaica's residents and visitors.

They must decide to work together as a symbol of unity seeking wisdom from the Almighty King and ruler. Think of the message such an act of humility would send to the rest of the nation if our two most senior leaders recognised that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain (Psalm 127:1)”.

Mr Prime Minister and Mr Opposition Leader, you are especially invited to church together. Come and seek the wisdom from God and, who knows, you might leave with a whole basketful of braata blessings.

Henry J Lewis is a lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Send comments to the Observer or

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