Kingston, Jamaica | Nigel Coke/IAD Staff

Family, Children and Adolescent Ministries Director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Dr. Lorraine Vernal is appealing to the church community to report criminal and abusive violation to help put an end to the various vices affecting Jamaica.

“We live in a Jamaica where this week [last Thursday] a young woman was raped and burnt near to her home and although she was crying rape and persons heard she died a grueling death,” said Vernal as she addressed the Family and EndItNow Conference at the Kencot Seventh-day Adventists Church in Kingston on Aug. 25, 2018.

Vernal argued that although it is an uncomfortable subject for many people it has become more and more obvious that abuse is a serious problem for Christians including Seventh-day Adventists.

“I ask that when we are made aware of any such atrocities the response cannot be about saving the job or reputation of the perpetrator,” said Vernal. “Do not sacrifice our children and youth for somebody’s job or reputation. Do not cause them to feel guilty about talking about things that hurt them or make them uncomfortable.”

She pleaded for people report cases even anonymously if need.

In reference to the sometimes common notion that the abuser are always males, Vernal warned to not laugh when men and boys are victims of abuse. “No abuse is funny. When a woman abuses a male it is not cute or okay,” she said. 

Vernal emphasized that the church must see attacks on children, adolescents and adults as evil and must live ethically and pay attention in making their homes, churches and other institutions safe places for everyone especially the young.

“We are resolute in our stance about breaking the silence associated with abuse and violence,” added Vernal. “Not only do we encourage all citizens to be advocates but we offer our expertise in helping victims and perpetrators.”

Support the fight against human trafficking

Also addressing the conference was Carol Palmer, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, who also challenged the Church to do its part in ending crime, abuse and human trafficking.

“I want to charge the Church firstly with recognizing that it has responsibility for the welfare of our young people,” said Palmer. “We need to ensure that all persons who relate to young people including their parents, care for young people. We want the Church to get involved in what we are doing…advocate for the dignity and sanctity of every human life. Ensure that it’s a top priority of the Church is for the care and welfare of children.”

Palmer also invited the Adventist Church to partner with the government in the challenge of human trafficking.

“I am being told many times that if you want to know where you are in Jamaica you should look for an Adventists sign, so I want you to help us to get the message in every ‘nook and cranny’ of Jamaica to end trafficking in person. Help us to raise awareness in each of your congregation.

According to a 2018 International Labor Organization Report, the trafficking in person is now worth more than US$300 billion.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is aware that it has a crucial part to play in the fight against the evils of crime, violence and human trafficking. According to Dr. Vernal, the church is accepting the challenge from the Ministry of Justice to get the message out and work towards bringing an end to violence and trafficking.

“We are exploring ways to keep the information constantly before the public using our platforms to encourage individuals to take note of activities in their surroundings, to advocate for all vulnerable groups, to mentor especially our at-risk children and youth, which enables us to be preventative rather than merely reactive,” said Vernal.

Church leaders are taking the call from the Ministry of Justice very seriously, she said. “We are mandated to nurture and protect those in our care. In collaboration with other departments, we remind leaders that those who are charged with supervision of our youth and children should ensure that are properly screened,” Vernal added.