A Way Out of Gangs and Crime

In Jamaica, Adventist university program for troubled youths gets national spotlight.

Byron Buckley, Northern Caribbean University, and Inter-American Division News
A Way Out of Gangs and Crime

Jamaica’s security minister, Horace Chang, has commended Seventh-day Adventist-operated Northern Caribbean University (NCU) for providing at-risk youth with the opportunity to pursue tertiary education through its RESCUE program.

Launched in 2016, the program, Restoring Every Student’s Confidence Using Education (RESCUE), has spent more than US$800,000 to assist 75 students, including former gang members, scammers, sexually abused girls, and orphans.

Addressing a recent conference on religion and crime prevention at NCU, Chang described the RESCUE program as “outstanding” and deserving of the collaboration and support of the Ministry of National Security Jamaica in resolving some of the societal issues related to crime.

Chang noted that the government was in the process of reformulating how ministries, departments, and agencies carry out social intervention activities in communities.

“It is not sufficient to just design projects that we think are necessary for the people in these communities,” Chang told the gathering at NCU Mandeville campus on November 26, 2019. “We must and will operate collectively in guaranteeing the social benefits and entitlements of these citizens. We must and will also engage community stakeholders, like the church, to partner in developing sustainable, relevant initiatives in these communities,” he added.

The national security minister called on faith-based organizations to recognize their value and potential in being agents of change, able to prevent and suppress criminal behavior. “We are inviting these organizations to partner with the government in the fight against crime and criminality,” he said.

In his remarks to the conference, which was organized by NCU’s School of Religion and Theology, university president Lincoln Edwards said that the institution has appealed to churches and other civic organizations to identify youths who are at risk to be influenced by criminal elements and to send them, along with funding, to the institution.

“We believe that it is far cheaper and more advantageous to educate students than to maintain them in prisons for extended periods of time,” Edwards argued.

“So, I urge the government and all Jamaica to partner with us in expanding the RESCUE program to reach many more youths. The more youths who attend NCU, the less will be available to serve as recruits for gangs or scammers,” he declared.

The president said that, as a faith-based organization, NCU believes that the church has a major role to play in finding solutions to the all-encompassing dilemma of crime. As such, the conference on crime prevention was planned with possible solutions in mind.

Edwards pointed out that NCU has an excellent criminal justice program through which the institution has provided training to members of the security forces in critical areas of duty.

In addition, he pointed to the university’s community restorative justice program as “a key element” in assisting communities and the police in dispute resolution, among other services.

He added that in cases of trauma occurring in the security forces, NCU counselors are dispatched to provide care to colleagues and family of affected workers.

“Our various churches provide counseling to bereaved families, helping them to cope, provide support for the children of struggling families so that these children can stay in school and have a future, rather than become recruits for gangs or scammers,” the NCU president stated.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.

Byron Buckley, Northern Caribbean University, and Inter-American Division News