Heartless criminals
Ward laments killing of women and children
WARD...in order to achieve true peace in Jamaica the nation must come together and protect the children (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

HEAD of Violence Prevention Alliance Dr Elizabeth Ward has expressed concern that criminals have moved away from the principle of not harming children and women, and have been carrying out some of the most heinous acts against them.

Ward, an epidemiologist, voiced her concern at a recent Jamaica Council of Churches symposium.

She argued that in order to achieve true peace in Jamaica the nation must come together and protect the children, who grow up seeking revenge.

"The old-time ways were, 'Never kill a woman and never hurt the children.' I see a high number of gunshot wounds in children and women at KPH [Kingston Public Hospital] in the Accident and Emergency Department. This cannot continue.

"If we were really together for our children we would really achieve peace in this country. We have a big problem — [and] all the statistics are there. Some of the drivers have to do with organised crime and gangs but mostly it is our social norms and our community and protective factors that have broken down," said Ward as she described Jamaica as a severely traumatised nation where people are exposed to too much violence.

She recommended sustainable programmes that offer mediation and counselling to people affected by violence.

"We see a lot of people in the accident and emergency unit at KPH. When they are leaving the hospital they tell us that they are going to get the man who shot or stabbed them."

The peace activist also expressed concern about the number of unattached youth, including females, across the island.

"We have to mainstream our unattached youth out there. There is a growing group of unattached females who are very resistant to what we are talking about. One of the critical roles of the Church must be to focus on integration, with everybody involved, not just to come into the church on a Sunday. Churches should open their doors and give a space that is neutral.

"The last time World Cup football was going on and we were running a violence prevention programme, a football coach came along and said open up church doors, turn on the football game and invite the boys in. Take them whether they have on a wife beater [man's sleeveless vest or T-shirt] or if they smoke a little ganja, but have a few basic rules.

"The rules are: No violence and no smoking. We don't try to convert them and tell them that they have to come back to church. You can be the starting point, but you have to start," Ward said.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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