Protect our children!
Bishop says heart is moved when he reads gruesome stories about kids
Kacey Gillings, student of Bethel United Basic School, prays as her school celebrates 50 years at Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic) in Kingston on Sunday. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

BISHOP of Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic) Michael Lewis has made an impassioned plea for Jamaicans to expend more effort in protecting children, while warning parents that in refusing to listen to their children they might unwittingly shield abusers.

"Children need our protection; every child has a right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. My heart pains me when I turn the pages of the newspaper or log online to see children [ages] seven, eight, nine, 10 being killed," Lewis said Sunday during a special service to mark the 50th anniversary of Bethel United Basic School at the church's 20 South Camp Road location in Kingston.

"My heart is moved when I read these gruesome stories; I wonder what kind of hearts these criminals have. But, the Bible did warn us that in the last days the hearts of men will become desperately wicked — and if the hearts of men have become desperately wicked it means we have a responsibility to protect our children," Lewis charged in his sermon premised on Psalm 127, which describes children as God's heritage.

Lewis, who is a career educator, encouraged parents to not only pray for their children's protection but to also teach them godly wisdom.

Donovan Williams, Memeber of Parliament of Kingston Central, assists Matteo Rowe, student of Bethel United Basic School, in tying of his shoe lace at the school's 50 year church service at the Bethel Unoited Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic) in Kingston, Sunday. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

"Teach them personal safety skills, teach our children to discern who they should trust. Research has shown that 90 per cent of sexual abusers are known to our children — it's not strangers. We must train our children [to know] that not every friend is a friend, and that not every family member is a family member," he said.

"We must not cower down our children, we must allow them to speak up! And when they speak up we must listen to them, because sometimes our children are being abused and we are not listening to them. They are crying but we are not listening, because something inside us tells us, 'No, it can't happen in my house.' But whether they believe it or not, it is happening around us every single day," he declared.

On Sunday Dr Tracy-Ann Morgan-Smith, director of regulations and monitoring at Early Childhood Commission, in bringing greetings, urged parents to refrain from suppressing their children.

"I have travelled to every continent except Africa and I cannot find any two-year-old in any country who can talk like a Jamaican child — language is the power of our children. Please do not shut them up. Stop shutting them up. Let them talk," she said.

"We are a powerful, expressive people. Children lead by their strength; we must tap into their language power and expand their cognitive development. So parents, I don't want you to tell them to sit down …and I want you to let them play. Play stimulates their brain and helps them to learn," she said while congratulating the operators of the school which gained certification in 2021.

Meanwhile, Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament for Kingston Central Donovan Williams, in emphasising the importance of early childhood education, said, "Bethel, continue on your trajectory. I want to congratulate you on your certification, it is very important. There is a tendency these days that we have to guard against: There is a tendency to devalue education, there is a tendency to glorify ignorance. Don't let them trick you, don't them hypnotise you. The foundation we are leaving here for children at Bethel United Basic School will last them to eternity — and the good thing is that it is twinned with religious training."

Board chair of the basic school, Joan Smalling said plans are afoot to relocate the entity which began with five students and two teachers and has now mushroomed to 120 students and 17 staff members through the construction a state-of-the-art facility at its 29 South Camp Road premises.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

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