August 30, 2018

Adventist Church in Jamaica Appeals to Members to Report Abuse

Nigel Coke, Inter-American Division News

Lorraine Vernal, the family, children and adolescent ministries director of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is appealing to the church community to report criminal and abuse violations to help put an end to some of the vices affecting Jamaica.

“We live in a Jamaica where [recently] 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 Adventist Church in Kingston on August 25, 2018.

Vernal argued that although it is an uncomfortable subject for many people, abuse has become more and more evident as 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,” she said. “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.”

Vernal pleaded for people to report cases even anonymously if needed.

In reference to the commonly held notion that abusers are males, Vernal warned her listeners not to laugh when men and boys are victims of abuse. “No abuse is funny. When a woman abuses a male, it is not cute or OK,” 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,” Vernal added. “Not only do we encourage all citizens to be advocates, but we offer our expertise in helping victims and perpetrators.”

Also addressing the conference was Carol Palmer, Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Justice, who challenged the Adventist Church to do its part in ending crimes of abuse and human trafficking.

“I want to charge the church firstly with recognizing that it has responsibility for the welfare of our young people,” Palmer said. “We need to ensure that all persons who relate to young people care for young people.”

Palmer added that the government wants the church to get involved in advocating for the dignity and sanctity of every human life. “Please ensure that the care and welfare of children is a priority of the church,” she said.

The minister secretary 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,” she said. “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 congregations.”

According to a 2018 International Labor Organization report, the trafficking in person is now worth more than US$150 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 violence and human trafficking, according to Vernal. The church accepts the challenge from the Ministry of Justice to get the message out and work toward bringing an end to violence and trafficking.

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

Church leaders are taking the call from the Ministry of Justice very seriously, Vernal 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 they are properly screened,” she said.