Thirty-Eight and Growing

As the Bahamas prepares to celebrate its 38th anniversary of independence, unfortunately, a dark cloud of violent crime hovers over the nation. While celebrations befitting our nation’s birthday will go on as scheduled, they will do so against the back drop of a measure of pain brought on by brutal crime which, this year, is likely to result in possibly the highest murder rate for our nearly 40-year-old nation. The festive mood of many is indeed colored by fear and anxiety, while some are apparently oblivious to what is happening in the Bahamas. In an attempt to combat and arrest the ugly monster, the Bahamas Parliament, at the time of the writing of this article, is debating the Bail Act. Should it pass, it is likely to no doubt have a positive impact in stemming the tide. But more is needed from all pockets of the society; a greater participation of the citizenry of our nation is required. As for my contribution, I employ my proverbial pen to offer the following suggestions.
Avoid Unnecessary Panic
One of the most ineffective things that we can do is to panic and allow ourselves to be overcome by fear. Becoming overly anxious will not help the situation. Of course, that is not to say that persons ought not to take precautions. In fact, we all need to be more observant of our surroundings, and following recommended safety procedures, pay close attention to anything or anyone unusual. This, to me, is a better approach to combating a menace that is attempting to overcome our people with fear and uncertainty. Fear of crime may prove more disastrous than crime itself. It is, unfortunately, an irrational fear that causes one to constantly imagine or believe that he or she is likely to become the next victim. Accordingly, living with such foreboding may lead one to miss the beauty of life and that which the Bahamas has to offer. After all, everything is not bad; there is still much good all around.
On the other hand, we are not to be insensitive to the pain and suffering inflicted upon families around us. We are to reach out, assisting and comforting wherever we can.
To avoid panic, we need to remind ourselves that “God is still a present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Also, He does not offer a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound judgment. That ought to give hope.

Become More Community Minded
I am of the view that as residents in our respective communities, we can do much more, in some instances, to assist the police in the fight against crime. Through networking and by taking a more proactive approach, we can minimize and combat crime in our communities. We can become part of a neighborhood crime watch initiative, assisting with patrolling or just keeping an eye open to what is happening in our community and reporting to the police any unusual activities and or presence. Personally, I have become more acquainted with my community and its residents through volunteering to engage in neighborhood patrolling. While some question the effect of this as well as the potential danger, the alternative of doing nothing or just waiting for the police is not enough. We need partnerships of sorts.

Have an Appreciation for Law and Order
How little do we know that when we disrespect and show disregard for our leaders, be it in the church, government, school, or work place, we undermine or chip away at their authority. Now, respect does not mean that you agree with or even accept everything that a leader says or does. But it does mean that we value and esteem the office the leader holds and approach differences in a matured and responsible manner. As the youth and children observe our decorum, unfortunately at times, the message is given that when we do not like something or an individual, we react negatively and disrespectfully, inflicting harm and emotional pain in some instances.

One of my favorite inspirational writers, Ellen White, observed years ago, “There is a growing contempt for law and order, directly traceable to a violation of the plain commands of Jehovah.” She added that, “Violence and crime are still the result of turning aside from the path of obedience” (Prophet and Kings, p. 185). I would venture to add that even a disregard and the downplaying of God’s Ten Commandments is having a negative effect on our society. Have we considered that when we question the relevance of them, we are essentially questioning the wisdom of God? God’s Ten Commandments are not ten suggestions, so they are still required of mankind today. Consider that God said that if we are faithful to Him, He would bless us above all nations. Though this promise was made to the Hebrews initially, it applies to God’s people today. I put it to you that it is still wrong to steal, murder, cheat, disrespect parents, and dishonor God’s Sabbath. I would rather believe the report of the Lord than that of man.

Fellow Bahamians and residents, as we celebrate 38 years as an independent nation, let us seek to recapture that community spirit and Godliness that we once had. If we would experience a considerable measure of peace and blessing, we must return to the neighborliness that once characterized our Bahamian communities. Happy Independence neighbors!

Leonard A. Johnson,
Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists
(Includes The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, and The Turks and Caicos Islands)