Teaching peace and love in Jamaica

by Jennifer P. Martin last modified 08 December 2015 11:17 AM
Teaching peace and love in Jamaica

Monument to child victims of violence in Kingston, Jamaica.

05 October 2015

The World Council of Churches very much desires the God of peace and justice to be present in the lives of all peoples and all nations. Despite realities which suggest that equanimity in human relations is at best difficult if not impossible we have boldly started a pilgrimage of justice and peace; across the world.

World Teachers' Day on 5 October comes just two weeks after we marked the International Day of Peace, 21 September, in schools.  It is timely to reflect that the level of global turmoil can easily give the impression that we are the brink of a world war.

The world is plagued by the seemingly encompassing presence of war. Daily images on the media display some of the debilitating effects of war. It is heart rending to see crowds of displaced victims of war moving across vast distances in search of a hopeful future of justice and peace.

There was recently the shocking image of the 3 year old Syrian boy who drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean when his family tried to reach safety via the dangerous boat route, after their application for refugee status in Canada had been rejected…

Jamaica and the wider Caribbean experience their share of an absence of justice and peace with homicide rates being alarmingly high in some places.

The idea of peace can feel all the more tenuous when it is borne in mind that, since not all conflicts are reported in the mass media, the true picture is likely to be even more grim.

Needless to say, conflicts within families and internal conflicts within individuals lead to lives that are often not harmonious. It is out of this quagmire of human experience that our children come into schools.

Thus educational institutions across the world seem to have a de facto responsibility to promote actions and programmes which support justice and peace. International Peace Day in schools provides an opportunity to draw children toward the paths of justice and peace.

Peter Tosh a late and great Jamaican/international singer challenged us with the words from a song: "everyone is crying out for peace but none is crying out for justice".

Frequently on Jamaican television, placard bearing demonstrators can be seen and heard demanding justice. Issues surrounding the absence of justice and simmer and sometimes boil over with detrimental effects including the loss of lives.

Children are not immune to the effects of lack of peace nor are they spared the results of justice which can be too slow or too late.

The country acknowledges its failings in this area and part of our attempt at repentance is the erection of a monument, located in proximity to the offices of the Mayor of Kingston, which commemorates the lives of some children who have been murdered. It is a sincere start and part of a greater policy and legislative framework to support the provision and a safe and holistic environment for children and their families.

But in Jamaica there are other responses which are directed to the achievement of justice and peace. There is one which epitomizes the spirit of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. It is the Peace and Love in Society programme.

Formerly known as Peace and Love in Schools, it was started in 1994. This programme sets out to guide children and adults on a metaphorical journey of peace and love.

Children and adults are challenged to believe that the ways of peace and love will help them to walk in the path of justice. This message is heard in different permutations given the sometimes difficult contexts in which persons live and move and have their being.

Nevertheless, the hope for peace and justice lives on.