Towards a wider definition of violence
The presence of violence in our society and the world is more than a material problem; it is also a manifestation of a spiritual and moral problem. It is the result of sin and cannot be cured just by employing material solutions.
We will never get it right if we see violence only in terms of disobedience to a state’s laws and regulations. It is a deeper problem and we will continue to lose the battle if we do not address it materially and spiritually.
If we are serious about the elimination of violence from our society, it has to be seen in a bigger context. Very often when we speak of violent behaviour, we limit it to the pain caused by guns, knives, theft and bombs. We will never become a violent free society if violence is limited to this understanding.
The discussion has to address the violence of emotional abuse, spousal violence, sexual violence, violence of victimization, violence of poverty, violence of exploitation, violence of class, violence of discrimination, violence of racism, violence of prejudice, violence done in the name of religion, violence of partisan political activity, gender violence and many other forms of political, social and economic violence that have a traumatic effect on the lives of our citizens and rob them of their true human value.
Violence denies our true humanity as persons made in the image of God and sees people as things to be used for selfish gain and then discarded. If we do not condemn all forms of violence, we encourage this evil and align ourselves with its perpetrators. All forms of violence contribute to fear, insecurity and instability which we as a people experience from time to time.
Our answer to the problem of violence cannot be centred only on the material as some are inclined to do. When we view life from a purely materialistic point of view without any regard for people’s spiritual and emotional needs, we turn them into monsters and life takes on a jungle experience. There is always the danger that material success and wealth can make us less human. The violence, ill-discipline, moral decay and various forms of deviant behaviour give lie to the belief that as we develop and prosper, we will become better people.
We must take into consideration the fact that man is material and spiritual and whatever programmes or policies we seek to implement must be a response to all of his needs. In our Barbadian society, we must at all times strive for a development that meets the physical, mental and spiritual needs of our citizens. If we only concentrate on the material development of our people, we will continue to experience the problem of violence and deviant behaviour, they will not go away.
A development limited only to the material, breeds greed, discontent, envy, individualism and naked competition, the ingredients for crime and violence in its many forms. Such a development instead of making us more human makes us less human. We must pursue what the late Pope Paul V1 called ‘development for peace’.
In the fight against violence, we need to place emphasis once again on those values that we believe will make for peaceful living. At the recently held Consultation on the Family organized by the Anglican Church, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for civil society to agree on a set of values that would allow for a peaceful Barbados. Such a common understanding would have to include, among other things, self-respect, honour, fairness, goodness and unselfishness, thrift, truthfulness, pride, honesty, respect for people’s property and rights, kindness, sacrifice, justice, tolerance, concern for others – the lists can be extended. Maybe, the kind of development we have pursued over the years, void of values, might be a contributing factor to the present culture of violence that pervades our society.
The Church has a role to play in creating a violent free Barbados. Each Christian has a part to play in the effort to free our land from violence. Jesus invites us to be peacemakers: “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God.” We cannot close our eyes to this evil and pretend that all is well. All is not well. Every day we hear stories of violence and the affect it is having on people.
Our people expect the church and its members to give leadership in this area and to lead by example. As such, the church as an institution and its members as individuals cannot be party to anything nor condone any practice, policy or decision that will do violence to our people. As a church, we must join forces with all religious groups and people of goodwill who seek peace in our land and the eradication of all forms of violence.
We might have different concepts of God, but there are common values we all share in our understanding of what it will take to have a peaceful and violent free Barbados.
(Canon Wayne Isaacs is Canon Missioner of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados. This article was posted on his Facebook page)