Residents of the volatile St James community of Salt Spring will soon have another avenue through which to resolve conflict, as well as benefit form training in human development.
The Jamaica Baptist Union last Thursday launched the Salt Spring Peace and Justice Centre for this purpose. The centre is located at the Salt Spring Baptist Church Hall.
In his address at the launching ceremony, General Secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, Rev Karl Johnson said that with Montego Bay and the wider parish of St James gaining a reputation as a hub of organised crime, the centre will play a practical role in the promotion of peace and justice, and diffusing community tension.
"This is a centre which is geared at enabling and uplifting the at-risk persons in our society, moving them to a place of wholeness and a place of being ... we are not just opening an infrastructure, we are actually preparing space for activity and ministry, and that for us is important as we would like for this to be seen through the lenses of ordinary persons in ordinary places, opening themselves to God to do extraordinary things," Rev Johnson stated.
He said that the Peace and Justice Centre will collaborate with agencies with similar intent, but will ground its interventions in Christian principles.
"The centre will offer counseling and provide group training in mediation and peer counseling. It will conduct peace-building forums along with conflict resolution and anger management sessions," he outlined.
Persons will also be able to access training in parenting skills, and will be screened and referred for vocational training. Leadership training will also be offered to local community groups.
The centre will be staffed by an administrator and a full time social worker/psychologist with others co-opted as required to foster a peaceful environment.
"The Jamaica Baptist Union intends to eventually replicate the pilot project in each parish as the practical outworking of the church's mission and focus on peace," Rev Johnson said.
Managing Director of the Citizens Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), Simeon Robinson, in endorsing the launch of the Centre, emphasised the importance of partnership to the CSJP, which has been working in the parish for the past six years.
"The partnership that we have already forged with the church will only be strengthened and I can promise the full cooperation for whatever is needed to make the Peace and Justice Centre here a resounding success that can be emulated elsewhere," Robinson said.