It is not unusual to have two murders in one day. The nation has seen three murders in one day and the shooting of an 11 year old boy and a 69 year old grandmother in separate home invasions recently. Multiple murders are becoming increasingly common in the crime wave of brutal murders that have left the nation numb. We have seen nine murders committed in one week. Something must be done to curb this evil and bring an end to the bloodshed. With all of the progress and advancements we have experienced in an independent Bahamas over the past forty years, we have lost the thing that is most important in the building of our nation, the family. Research has indicated that the number one cause of crime and violence is the breakdown of the family and our failure in rearing our children. Absentee fathers who have either rejected or abandoned their children, have produced an angry and bitter generation.
Bishop Walter S. Hanchell, Chairman of Citizens For Justice, is calling for an end to the huge amount of murders that have been unleashed upon the Bahamas. Something must be done to end the carnage in our once peaceful nation. This dark cloud that hangs over The Bahamas should and must be stamped out. Were it not for the efforts of EMS personnel and the critical treatment in our hospitals that have saved so many lives, the murder count would be much higher than what is on record.
Citizens For Justice is demanding that corrective measures be taken immediately to fight the growing number of criminals that have no value for human life and absolutely no respect for law and order. The time has long passed for us to take back our country from violent offenders. A comprehensive plan of action needs to be activated to heal our Bahamas. Our political and religious leaders, along with parents and other major stakeholders must come out of denial, unite and clean up this scourge that is threatening the national security of the Bahamas. The police must be commended for their valiant efforts in fighting crime and restoring law and order but this crime wave is bigger than the police. Suspects who are arrested and charged with murder and other serious crime, use their attorneys to manipulate the judicial system to get bail, only to commit more murders and violent offences, thus frustrating the efforts of our hardworking police officers.
We appeal to political parties, churches and civic organizations to get seriously involved in the fight against murder and crime. To remain silent or do nothing will cause crime to further escalate. The first step is to admit that the country is in crisis and headed in the wrong direction and to not pretend on the eve of our fortieth anniversary of independence, that all is well. It was the late great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who declared that “We begin to die, the moment we remain silent on things that matter”.
We call on pastors throughout the length and breath of the Bahamas and in particular those whose ministries are located in crime hot spots, to act now by infiltrating the communities around their churches. Christ did 90% of His ministry outside the temple and in the community. The message of peace, love and the kingdom of God must be communicated in every neighbourhood. It is of utmost importance that pastors of both mega churches and smaller ministries, begin the process of training and equipping their members to go into the highways and byways as commanded by Christ and make disciples. For too long the Church has ignored its most important assignment and replaced it with in-house activities that do not reach troubled families and youth. The church is mandated to preach the gospel not only to those who walk through its doors, but also to those who are unable or unwilling to come. Through outreach the church ministers to both the physical and spiritual needs of the community.
People are suffering and dying without an opportunity to have a personal relationship with God, while we see business as usual in the house of God. Citizens For Justice urge church leaders to implement social outreach programmes that will reach persons who are not connected to the church as soon as possible. The nation needs programmes that will restore family and moral values in our homes.
The Bahamas has evolved into a materialistic, complicit nation that has lost the godly values instilled in us from our forefathers. We challenge every Bahamian to return to God and remind church leaders and all believers that judgement begins at the house of God. As we look at the state of our nation and search the word of God for answers, we can clearly hear the voice of God calling on the church to repent in a very familiar passage that is commonly quoted, but seldom obeyed.
2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name (Christians) will HUMBLE themselves and PRAY and SEEK MY FACE and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and HEAL THEIR LAND. Please note carefully that the healing of our beloved nation will occur only when the church repents of its wickedness. We must ALL REPENT of both our sins of commission and our sins of omission, which represent our refusal to do the things which God commanded us to do. We are not to just preach the good news but we must model the good news for the benefit of the lost.
Some pastors preach great messages on evangelism but they never go into the mission field. This is disobedience. Are they greater than Christ and His disciples who went out and ministered to the people, healing the sick and casting out demons or has their pride deceived them? The church must go back to basics. We must preach the full gospel and not what tickles the ears of the congregation. It is time for the church to be the church. If the church does what we should, we will see a transformation of our nation. Countless lives will be changed as the darkened hearts of men and women receive the life-changing message of Christ’s love.
Citizens For Justice is challenging churches to not only intensify prayer, but to also give emphasis to evangelism through home visitations, street meetings, park outreaches, evangelistic movies, drama, community bible studies and the revival of Sunday school classes. Various methods may be utilized to attract those away from the church such as sporting and cultural events, education, arts and crafts, music, games, concerts, feeding programs, group therapy for special needs, computer and literacy programmes and job placement.
People need to restore the hope they have lost. Hope is the expectation of good happening, but too many are presently in despair believing that their best days are behind them. We must change this mindset and give them hope in God. Bahamians are quite open and receptive to the church. Many persons who have been visited in their homes and communities have indicated that they have always expected to see the church in their neighbourhoods, but this seldom happens. Some have become angry and bitter towards the church as can be seen by the remarks made in the various media outlets.
The time is now for the church to put aside the many things that divide us and unite in a longterm national effort in spreading the gospel and reducing murder, crime, violence and other social ills. These efforts should be deliberate and consistent. It is the recommendation of Citizens For Justice that each church utilize a section on their premises as a community centre, providing counseling and other services to their communities. These initiatives could assist delinquent teenagers, single mothers, drug addicts, ex convicts, widows, orphans, the elderly, the sick and the bereaved. Attention should also be given to parenting classes and character development.
We cannot effectively reduce murder and serious crime without initiatives for the reduction of poverty. The necessary funding and other resources must be made available from both the government and the private sector to finance the necessary faith-based programs that are desperately needed to impact our communities. The work of Urban Renewal, the Police and our many civic organizations must be commended. They will continue to play pivotal roles in the restoration of law and order.
It is the church, however, that has the mandate to restore the moral fabric of the nation. We believe that the root cause of the antisocial problems the country faces is the loss of family values, the removal of the family altar and the demise of daily devotions, we once held sacred. Parents of this generation have failed miserably in training their children in godly principles. Far too many have raised menaces who terrorize our nation and nothing is being done to address this situation.
As we examine the root cause of crime, we see a strong connection to the family. Research from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed the immense value of fathers in the home. Absentee fathers may in itself be a form of child abuse.
These agencies discovered that children from fatherless homes are 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 9 times more likely to commit suicide, 14 times more likely to commit rape and 20 times more likely to end up in prison than children who live with their fathers. Fathers add tremendous value and stability to their children
who look to them for approval and positive influence. When fathers reject or abandon their children, they develop behavioral disorders, negative images of themselves and a false concept of God. Children who are raised without their fathers, commit a much higher level of violent crime than those whose fathers were present.
Further studies amazingly reveal that the largest single factor in predicting whether a child will graduate, become involved in crime or drugs, or get pregnant before reaching age 18, is the presence or absence of the father in that child’s life.
Furthermore, children not living with their biological fathers, are more likely to run away from home, more likely to be abused and more likely to suffer from long-term emotional and psychological problems. There is also a greater possibility that they will become teenage parents.
We can clearly see from research and from the extremely high percentage of fatherless homes in the Bahamas, that the major challenge in the war against murders and crime is absentee fathers. Immediate initiatives and programs that focus on the restoration of fatherhood in every home, should become a priority. This is not an easy task but it is absolutely essential if we as a nation are serious about reducing the plague of high murders, crime and lawlessness which are threatening to derail law and order and devalue our quality of life in the Bahamas. The prophet Micah reminds us that it is the will of God that the hearts of the fathers return to the children.
The government of the Bahamas also has a key role to play in reducing the unacceptable level of murders and crime that has imploded in this nation over the past decade. Drastic conditions require drastic measures but we have seen no radical measures taken by any government. Our government has a responsibility to create an environment of peace and safety and to counter crime, the fear of crime. The nation is in crisis and will continue to head south unless our spiritual and political leaders make the tough decisions and do the right things.
We can begin by firstly passing legislation that prohibits bail for repeated violent offenders and for persons charged with murder, rape, armed robbery, illegal gun possession or the sexual abuse of children. Such cases should be heard expeditiously and sentences should be quick and harsh. Anyone convicted of any such offense should receive a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years hard labour along with some form of corporal punishment. Rehabilitation and education should become priorities in our penal system. Finally and most importantly, unless murder cases are dealt with quickly and unless the practice of manipulating the justice system for the benefit of convicted murderers at the detriment of victims and their families, these murders will not end and vigilante justice can be expected to escalate.
Here is what God says about this matter: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed SPEEDILY, therefore the heart of men is fully set in them to do evil”. Ecclesiastes 8:11 .
What this means is that if we continue to drag these cases on and refuse to punish criminals quickly and harshly, including the state killings of convicted murderers, criminals will become more cruel and inflict even greater terror on society as we are now experiencing. The bible teaches in Roman 13, that rulers (political leaders) should be a terror to evil work for they are ministers of God, who do not bear the sword in vain. The sword refers to the authority given by God to execute a murderer and to punish criminals for their evil.The state has the authority to execute wrath on those who practice evil without compromise as seen in our laws.
We believe strongly that the Privy Council has erred in its rulings and interpretation of Bahamian law and has intentionally prevented the administering of capital punishment on convicted murderers in contravention to the laws of the Bahamas. These law lords believe that capital punishment is inhumane and barbaric, hence it has been abolished in the United Kingdom and in most of Europe. Their values and laws have absolutely nothing to do with Bahamian law and our value system.
The constitution of the Bahamas supersedes any laws or rulings that are contrary to what is recorded in that instrument. No outside agency, government or organization including the United Nations, has the authority to dictate to any sovereign nation, their wishes and ideals. It is time for our political leaders to stand against such forces and protect the rights of citizens, which are entrenched in our constitution to which they have sworn to uphold. Their personal beliefs and value systems should not prevent the laws of the Bahamas from being enforced.
Crime appears to be big business in the Bahamas. Legislators and the government have the authority to fix this vexing situation but do they have the will to do so? The time has come for politicians to put the people above party and votes.
Bahamians are crying out for jobs and for justice against a justice system that favours criminals. It is the responsibility of the government to create an environment that will provide jobs for unemployed Bahamians and ease the burden of many hurting families. We appeal on behalf of the victims of crime and their families that restitution be made by persons convicted of murder, attempted murder and all violent crime.
Bishop Walter S. Hanchell, J.P.
Chairman, Citizens For Justice