Jamaica can rise again but journalists have a lot to do, says pastor

MINISTER of Webster Memorial United Church in St Andrew, Reverend Astor Carlyle told journalists they have a lot more work to do to help Jamaica rise again and to revive “withering Jamaican institutions” by the application of truth.

His theme ‘Can a withering tree bloom again?’, the churchman held the rapt attention of the congregation worshipping with the media fraternity as they kicked off a series of activities marking the Press Association of Jamaica’s (PAJ) annual National Journalism Week.

“It is this question that I believe Jesus seeks to answer as he responds to Peter [the apostle]… Can a withering tree bloom again? After all, doesn’t the Bible predict that things will get worse and worse?

“Can this, our country beset by criminal activity of all kinds, be renewed? Is there hope for restored values and attitudes in this our nation Jamaica? Can the seeming withering tree of law and order, decency, and propriety be restored to life?

Saying that Jesus had answered yes, Reverend Carlyle insisted that restoration “doesn’t rest solely on infrastructural reforms, as good as they are, but on ‘inner-structural’ reform, working in tandem with infrastructural improvements… our hearts need to be made right”.

He knocked the priests who were supposed to stand in God’s presence on behalf of the people but who used “the people’s sacrifices as a means to enrich themselves and, instead of caring for the poor, they manipulated the poor”, adding that “scamming is nothing new”.

To demonstrate the state of affairs Pastor Carlyle quoted the late American comedian George Carlin as saying: “We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider highways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.

“We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more medicine, but less wellness.

“We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. Through our own genius we’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things… We have higher incomes, but lower morals; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.”

Reverend Carlyle continued: “If the withering tree of Jamaica is to be restored, the culture of suspicion that is choking us needs to be overthrown. I believe that in some communities, if not the whole nation, truth-telling sessions need to take place so that hurting families may have closure and the healing of our communities may take place.

“Probably some truth-telling sessions may need to take place in our churches, where authentic exchanges take place that serve to mend old wounds and that reconciliation may be a reality.

“Jesus says for withering trees to sprout again we must engage the community-building virtue of grace-filled forgiveness.”

In his remarks at the service PAJ President Milton Walker said the fraternity recognises the immense power woven within journalism — the power to unveil truth — but acknowleged the hurdles and trials encountered in the profession.

“The distressing decline in Jamaica’s press freedom rankings, slipping from 12 to 32, casts a shadow on the liberties we tirelessly uphold. We grapple with adversities, navigating through political assaults aimed at stifling the voice of truth and impartial reporting.

“In these challenging times we stand united, fortified by our commitment to the foundational values of journalism. The theme of this week, ‘Journalism’s Power…Truth Unleashed’, echoes the essence of our calling. It reminds us of the pivotal role we play in unravelling realities, confronting injustices, and illuminating the path to a more informed society.”

Walker urged his colleagues not to waver in their resolve “to harness the power within journalism to counter adversity, uphold the mantle of truth, and safeguard the fundamental liberties that underpin our democracy”.