The government should help build churches and get involved in them in its effort to fundamentally reduce the island’s crime rate, said Newton Amos, a retired senior police officer and flagbearer for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in St Catherine North West.
Amos was quick to clarify that he is not pushing for a takeover of churches; he is mainly urging Government to pump resources into them to shore up their outreach programmes.
“Churches are not a private institution; the government must show interest in our churches. Churches help to mould the minds of our people and, therefore, you are going to end up spending less money on these entities than you would have spent to prevent and control crime and violence,” Amos further said in an exclusive interview this week with The Beacon.
Jamaica, touted as having more churches per square mile than any other country, has one of the world’s highest murder rates. With a population of roughly 2.9 million, the island recorded 1,287 murders last year.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned paradox, Amos noted that, with Government intervention, the social role of churches would be redefined or expanded.
“When I said the government should get involved in the church, I am not talking about Government to run churches, but Government should ensure that – say for instance charity, our churches should be more all-inclusive; they should not be seen as just on the side doing certain things.
“Government should be involved to the extent where they would help to provide opportunities for more churches to exist – and not just to exist but for more churches to have programmes,” Amos further reasoned.
“It’s not about taking over the church and to say to the church ‘do this and do that’. The churches have shown that they want to be more involved – more participatory; they want to reach out; they want more outreach programmes.”
Meanwhile, Amos, who served in the Jamaica Constabulary Force for 39 years, has been arguing that the mainstay of any national crime plan should comprise the family, schools and the church.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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