Church leader bats for ‘power of forgiveness’ as solution to crime in Jamaica
Head of the Emmanuel Apostolic Church, Bishop Everton Thomas has faith that the “power of forgiveness” is the critical ingredient that can reduce violence and crime in Jamaica and he is on a mission to convince young men in particular that they must lay down the burden.
Bishop Thomas, known as the singing pastor, said he would be carrying the message of forgiveness through the release of his gospel single “I Choose to Forgive You”, as well as through messaging across the 36 Emmanuel Apostolic churches in Jamaica and a number of social outreach initiatives island-wide.
“Only by forgiveness can we bring lasting peace. Much of the gang strife and inter-communal violence has its roots in past acts that the current generation do not even know about much less remember,” he noted.
He made the remarks Thursday while addressing the telethon pre-launch of the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s (JSE) Yuletide Telethon geared towards raising funds for social sector and SME economic projects on the stock exchange.
The bishop further stated that his initiative grew out of work being done by Billy Moore in the United States, as part of a Forgiveness Mission in that country. That mission emanated from an act of forgiveness by the family of murder victim Fredger Stapleton who was killed during a robbery by Billy Moore, a troubled war veteran who had been betrayed and exploited by his drug addict wife and her drug dealer boyfriend in the 1970s.
That act led to his conviction and placement on death row. However, Moore’s remorse, Christian conversion and writing of a letter to the family of his victim was met with the surprising admission by the Stapleton family that they had already forgiven him as they were Christians.
Virtually hours before he was to be electrocuted, Moore was freed following the intervention of Mother Theresa and the Georgia Parole Board which led to the birth of a movement across the USA and among the Evangelical Churches globally which has led to a changing in views against the death penalty and the Forgiveness Mission which includes counseling and other interventions geared at turning people against violence and towards peaceful conflict resolution.
Bishop Thomas, the recipient of a US Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his service to communities by his Emmanuel churches there, further stated that with Jamaica’s high murder rate and propensity for mindless violence, he is confident that the forgiveness message will grow in Jamaica.
Jamaica has the highest homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, regularly recording over 1,000 murders annually, according to the United Nations (UN) estimates.
Thursday’s Telethon Pre-launch is geared at attracting some $40 million in funding focused on urban renewal, and youth development through music, character building, conflict resolution and basic financial literacy training in schools to fulfill funding targets on the on the JSSE platform. Some $17 million was raised last year.