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Clergymen representing a diversity of denominational backgrounds have been meeting weekly for a number of months for fellowship and to share views about a number of pressing social, religious and moral issues. We speak today as ministers of the Christian Church. We are bound together by love for our Country, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Members of a community may differ on the role of the clergy in civic and social life. In some Communions (denominations) ministers are expressly forbidden to become actively involved in politics on a partisan basis; for instance, they are told to “stick to preaching”. In other Communions the minister is discouraged, though not strictly forbidden. In yet others, the matter is left to the individual minister.
However, there is little, if any disagreement with the proposition that ministers of the Gospel should fearlessly bring the Word of God to bear, when the occasion arises, on issues which affect both the spiritual and temporal well-being of God’s people in a local community of the world. God created the whole person. The “Good News” which Christ proclaimed, and which we have been charged to herald, speaks to every condition and context of human life. It is in this spirit we speak today. We speak not in the spirit of contentiousness, neither rancor, but in a spirit of caring and humility and with reluctance to attach blame.
Today in our Country there is a pressing need for us to improve our style of leadership. Followers of Jesus attract persons to their way by themselves living lives of dedication, truthfulness and faith; lesser men and unscrupulous leaders attract followers to their cause by violence, hopeless dependence, fear, exploitation, bribery, victimization, intimidation and the rationalizing of half-truths to would-be followers.
There can be no question that today the Bahamian society is at a very low ebb in terms of wholesome family life, respect for law and order, in terms of the social and material well-being of thousands of Bahamians, and in terms of traditional Christian values and mores. Crimes of the worst kind are taking place with a high level of frequency throughout our nation. The high incidence of rape, robbery, murder and illegal drug-trafficking are causing the average citizen to live in fear, and many families are terrorized by hoodlums. Social life is being curtailed and many of our church members stay away from wholesome night-time activities which would take them out of their homes.
We are just as concerned, however, about the not so obvious criminal activities which go unaddressed and unnoticed. It appears that the devils of greed and selfishness have been unleashed upon our whole society. We hear complaints of padded bills, inflated prices for food, other goods and merchandise.
We express concern about the steady diet of raw violence many of our young people are exposed to in movie houses. Some are lured into drug abuse and a life of crime by the glamorous and fashionable advocated of this style of life as seen in the movies.
We express concern about the fact that periodically we hear of persons, mostly Haitians, being arrested for engaging in “lottery”, and yet Bahamians in general – and we must assume the authorities also – are knowledgeable that there are two major lottery houses operating in our Country, with certain names attached to them, and the trade goes on, notwithstanding the fact that it is illegal. We can only ask, is it illegal for some and legal for others? Furthermore, when one looks at the illegal lottery trade in our Country it is logical to further ask what other activities the authorities are overlooking. Association, affluence and influence should not put anyone above the law.
In times of crisis many cry out to the Church for help and guidance. What is the Church doing about unemployment? What is the church doing about “the illegal Haitian problem”? What is the Church doing about the referendum to amend the Constitution? What about the widespread sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages? What about the problems associated with drug abuse and drug trafficking in our community? How is it that an increasing number of grocery stores, bar-rooms and discotheques show no regard for those days our community hold as holy and sacred? The questions go on and on. Must the Church remain silent?
The rampant homosexual abuse in our Country has been condemned; as it springs from persistent allegations and rumors. And yet, the condemnation of homosexuality should not be interpreted as a sanction to the epidemic of heterosexual abuse in our Commonwealth. It is common knowledge and has been professionally verified that heterosexual abuse has done much to erode family and interpersonal relationships. In our community and churches we seem to have a blatant disregard for the concept of parent readiness. Many school children are so busy experimenting sexually that they seem to have little time for other wholesome developmental pursuits. The Church must provide alternate occupations for those who are tempted to go the way of self and societal destruction.
The mass breakdown in strong, caring, supportive family-life and healthy interpersonal relationship in our society today disturb us greatly.
We are most concerned about the atmosphere of fear which pervades our Country today. Many Bahamians from all walks of life, including professionals and other persons with potential, initiative and creativity, and those who have much to contribute to the well-being of our Country, are in fact, often afraid to be open and candid with their feelings, opinions, associations and political ideological views. Bahamians openly criticize Forbes Burnham, Fidel Castro, Ronald Reagan, Maurice Bishop and countries like South Africa and Russia, for example, but are generally very fearful of criticizing persons whom they have elected to political office, and about addressing openly issues of vital concern to themselves and the nation. Bahamians should feel free to exercise the right to criticize the management of our Country without fear, whether real or imagined. Complaints have come to us of loss of jobs, withholding promotions and of cramped working conditions because of where persons are, or perceived to be politically. We most strenuously oppose these activities and those guilty of causing them.
Furthermore, we are distressed about the use, abuse and misuse of our nation’s sole broadcasting system. It should be clear in principle, that The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS radio and television) belongs to the Bahamian people and not to any one group, interest or segment of our community. News and special programs should not be restricted mainly to politics and pronouncements by members of Government. The relevant agencies of education, law, religion, social services, journalism, other political parties, culture as a whole, medicine, and those critical of things as they are, should be given adequate, and in many cases equal radio and television time, when these associations make special addresses, seminars or statements, with equal bearing on the lives of all our people.
The Second Assembly of The Caribbean Conference of Churches called for the establishing of A Social Justice Committee in every area where member churches are to be found. This request was made since November 1977 in Georgetown Guyana. The intention is to encourage the Christian churches throughout the region to speak for those who are unable or not allowed to speak for themselves, and to militate against all forms of oppression, corruption, victimization, negative political pressure, restrictions of free speech and to fight for the right and freedom of association. It is time the Bahamian religious community respond to this call, and be the Church, “The light and salt” of our community. To this end, therefore, we are calling for the setting-up of an Ecumenical Social Justice committee, whose responsibility will be to examine, expose and militate against exploitation, oppression, infringement of individual and human rights, loss of jobs and withholding of promotion for political reasons.
We are aware that the operation of a Government is not tantamount to the management of a church. Nevertheless, if we are going to wear the label of a Christian community with any degree of validity, as is clearly spelt out in the preamble to the Bahamian Constitution, then we must be ready to uphold the principles of Christ in private as well as our public life. While we are not calling for the Country to operate as a Church, we are advocating that the leaders should mirror people they are privileged to represent; a privilege no one should take for granted.
In the face of all this, as churchmen we rededicate our lives to the great Head of the Church who has called us and who lives in us, admonishing us to do His will above all else. Further, we call upon the Christian community to turn again to prayer, bible study, Christian social involvement, and live exemplary lives worthy of their calling in Christ Jesus.
Finally, we call for a new beginning in the matter and fashion of conducting public affairs. We call on our political aspirants to put God and Country first, and to turn once again to the practice of fair play and respect for all the rights, freedoms and sensibilities of their fellow citizens, regardless of political persuasion.
It is timely and prudent that the Bahamian people heed the “signs of the times”. Indeed, we can yet be a model nation. Genuine and authentic social development cannot be realized at the sacrifice of religious, human and spiritual values.
To be a Christian nation we dedicate ourselves; a nation free of strife, fear, corruption and evil; a nation free to build, love and care for one and all by the will and power of God.
We are yours in the name of Jesus the Christ.
Reverend Simeon B. Hall
Reverend Dr. Colin Archer
Reverend Samuel Sturrup
Pastor Ros A. Davis
(Assemblies of God - Evangelistic)
Pastor Gary Curry
(Assemblies of God – Evangelistic)
Reverend Dunstan Burrows
Reverend James Palacious
Reverend Ruben Cooper
Reverend Charles Sweeting
Reverend Andrew Stewart
Reverend J. Emmette Weir
Nassau, Commonwealth of The Bahamas,
Tuesday, December 29, 1981
Thirty three years ago, in the summer and autumn of 1981, I was associated with a group of twelve to fifteen fellow Christian ministers, representing various denominational groupings, which met weekly - mainly at my pastorate sanctuary, the historic Wesley Methodist Church, Grants Town, Nassau - working toward the setting up of an Ecumenical Social Justice Committee to stem what we at that time called, “the exploitation, oppression and infringement of individual and human rights in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas”. The groups’ contention at that time was that the perceived violations of basic human rights were mainly politically Out of those momentous meetings, what one local daily described as “a hard-hitting, and thought-provoking” statement, was conceived and released for public discussion, titled: Towards Greater Christian and Political Accountability.
Three decades have passed since the publication of that document. But for some give-away phrases, such as: “Two major lottery houses” (now there are said to be thirty two!); references to Forbes Burnham, Ronald Regan and Maurice Bishop; “discotheques” (who uses that word today?); and the powerful negative influence of movie houses (today it’s the vast, unstoppable social media network) – the content and contemporary import of our 1981 paper are as timely for Church and Society in today’s modern Bahamas, as it was back then.
It was a privilege then for me to be associated in a major way with the drafting, release, and now the re-release of that 1981 document. If not decades ago, may the fresh unveiling of this paper ring true today in our own time and age, so as to motivate us to new forms of consciousness, and greater religious, social and political action on behalf of those, whom John Wesley described as, “our brothers and sisters who need us most”.
Colin B. Archer,
June 14, 2014
About the author:
Dr Colin Archer is
an ordained Christian Minister and Psycho-theologian, who at an early
age he realized a keen sensitivity for the poor, homeless and
dispossessed in relation to church and society. He served as
Psychotherapist at a psychiatric hospital in Nassau, Bahamas for many
years. He is the founding president of The Bahamas
Council on Alcoholism, later establishing a half-way house for
recovering victims of alcohol abuse and a home for battered women
through Methodist Community & Church Ministries.
He is currently the Author of five (5)
books, due to launch his sixth book, Foundation 7 Formation, due to be
released in Spring of 2013. www.investinginbeinghuman.com
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her
private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of
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