Gov't has its mandate... but so does the ChurchMonday, March 29, 2021
Newton G A Dixon
The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) wishes to reiterate its commitment to playing its role in combating the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even before the first case arrived on Jamaica's shores on March 10, 2020, member bodies of the council placed their constituents on alert and urged vigilance. In the light of this, the JCC has been generally supportive of the efforts and measures of the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) in battling the pandemic.
We understand and recognise the powers conferred on the prime minister under the Disaster Risk Management Act that allows for effective management of such situations. The JCC is strongly of the view, however, that when our Government contemplates actions that will seriously impact our citizenry that this ought to be with the fullest consultation of the relevant stakeholders or representative bodies.
In this vein, we commend the GoJ for its facilitation of dialogue with some organisations especially as it seeks to keep the economy afloat. It is our recommendation that all stakeholders should be given this same privilege. Good governance always requires that all stakeholders have their say and bring to the table their experience and expertise of the field that is theirs.
The JCC laments the disregard shown by those who engage in unauthorised gatherings and activities that have contributed to the increase of COVID-19 cases. This has brought our health system to a breaking point. However, the council took note of the apparent lack of proportionality between the measures applied to some sectors, the Church included, and some other entities and services. In fact, three weeks ago, the prime minister asked the churches to go online to flatten the curve. The Church complied and cases still soared; pointing to the fact that the churches and other religious assemblies may not be the main culprits.
We affirm that the Church offers an essential service. It is as essential to go to church as to go to the pharmacy, or to see a doctor. Religion is at the heart and soul of the Jamaican psyche. Faith matters! Ours is a Christian nation. Our history reveals painful events from slavery to colonial days to nationhood.
In the name of our Great Defender, whom we proclaim in our national anthem to be the one who protects us from evil and guides us with His light through countless hours, the Church has an indispensable pastoral responsibility to intercede on behalf of our people and nation.
In addition, the Church must also facilitate a wide range of pastoral care within our remit, including worship. In this time of crisis, the united voice of the Church, renews its appeal to all Christians in our land to pray and implore the guidance of the Holy Spirit on our Government that must lead through the difficult waters of this COVID-19 storm.
The JCC calls the Church to redouble united pastoral strategies to bring solace, consolation, and to be beacons of hope for our nation. Let us remember the calming of the storm as reported in the gospels (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25), when the disciples were afraid. Our Blessed Lord calmed the storm and reproached their lack of faith. Let fear not cripple us, lest we lose sight of priorities.
In addition, the JCC urges all Christians to cooperate, as much as is possible, with the measures put in place to curb the pandemic. While freedom of speech is necessary, and questioning a Government is at times healthy and necessary, all undue discourse which creates public mischief is strongly discouraged by the JCC, and those who breach the safety protocols ought to be answerable to the law.
The JCC reaffirms that the Church has its sphere of action, which is indispensable, and that the Government also has its sphere of action which is necessary for the good of the land. Each contributes to the good of the Jamaican people. United we stand, divided we fall.
So, as we prepare for our eternal destiny, the Church will continue to comfort the sick, counsel those in mourning, to help those in need during this COVID-19 period, because the Church must bring hope to all.
Rev Newton G A Dixon is president of the Jamaica Council of Churches. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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