Prayer breakfast aims to strengthen communities through peace, justice, forgiveness

BISHOP Christine Gooden-Benguche has a made a call for hope, peacemakers, cultivation and closure to disputes, which she said will help to rebuild strong and safe communities in Jamaica.

Gooden-Benguche, who is the district president for the Jamaica Methodist District, was speaking at the 43rd annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday which was held under the theme, ‘Strengthening communities through Peace, Justice and Forgiveness.’

She noted that while there needs to be a commitment to a new social order, laws alone can never be able to effect behavioural change, or promote social harmony.

“If we do not bring closure, we will not break the cycle of revenge, hatred, bitterness that is feeding our crime rate and overburdening the criminal justice system. Perhaps we do not have enough confidence and hope to believe that we can do better, that our justice system will work, that our prayers for peace and justice will be answered, that our initiatives to unite to confront the challenges can work without pointing fingers and playing the blame game,” said Gooden-Benguche, who was addressing the event at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston.

“Hope is what will get us to stand up when others say siddung, hope is that which will get us speaking when others say shut up. The other factor is cultivate. Victor Hugo [notable French poet] wrote, ‘There are no weeds in society only bad cultivators’. Benjamin Mays [Baptist minister] says no one is free who is afraid to speak the truth as he or she knows it or who is too fearful to taking a stand for what he or she knows is right,” she continued.

At the same time, Gooden-Benguche said the call for everyone is repentance, which should be led by those in political and ecclesiastical leadership.

“We must join hands to work for the benefit of all, setting aside our differences. The Church is not in competition with the State or vice versa for scarce benefits. The Church is a microcosm of this society. We share a common experience. Even where there are differences in methodology, all objectives are clearly outlined in the National Pledge and they remain the same,” she said.

“We must speak truth to power and this begins with the Church, under the spotlight fulfilling our God directed mandate. The Church stands ready to create safe spaces and common ground to facilitate engagement as we work towards efforts at peacemaking and community building,” she added.

According to Gooden-Benguche, there needs to be the restoration of dignity, sense of value and self-worth, by setting standards in the homes.

“We have to lay the foundation that will help us to allow our children to value life and not just theirs but their neighbours, and indeed the life of all. Life is from God, life is given by God. It is not for us to take life. Self-worth, value and dignity is what we need to inculcate in our homes and in our communities that say — ‘I am somebody because God has made me so’,” she said.

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