Archbishop of Kingston: Our Priests are with the People


  • Category:

(26 May 10 - RV) The Church in Jamaica is concerned that violence between security forces and armed supporters of a known drug lord, could drag on to the bitter end and even spill over into other areas of the capital and beyond. "These are young men who have been given guns and money to fight until the end", says the Archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica, Donald James Reece.

The overall death toll from four days of violence in Jamaica's capital Kingston rose to 49 today after a police assault on an alleged drug lord's stronghold in the Tivoli Gardens of area. Soldiers and police stormed the slum on Monday searching for Christopher "Dudus" Coke, whose extradition is being sought by the US on charges of cocaine trafficking and gun-running. Security forces in Jamaica, say they have been fighting gun battles in the streets with armed young supporters of Coke, who has not yet been located.

We spoke to Archbishop Donald James Reece of Kingston, about the situation:

"There is a lot of tension in the area that is under attack, but the rest of Jamaica is relatively calm. However the concern is that things could get out of hand and extend to other areas. I have communicated to all of our priests, religious and deacons to try and maintain calm, to pray the traditional St Michael the Archangel prayer. In Jamaica the Council of Churches, of which the Catholic Church is a member, have come out with a statement, that the Prime Minister himself is no longer able to lead because he has been caught out in cases of ‘untruths' or lies, surrounding the extradition request from the United States for the known drug dealer, so his credibility has been damaged".

Q: Focusing on the drug situation, how involved is the Church in helping people affected by drug abuse, and drug related crime?

"We are the only Church that has residence in the conflict area. As a result our men are respected there. We have programs for the ordinary people who live there. The priests who live there are the safest because the gunmen will not bother them, because they identify them as people from their area who give service to them at all times".

Q: What are the hopes for a solution to this situation?

"This morning I heard that the young men, because these are young men in their twenties who have been given guns and money, some have even been recruited at 100 thousand Jamaican dollars a day, that is a tidy sum, for them to fight to the end. That means that they will not capitulate to the security forces, so it could drag on to the bitter end for another week or so. Also the security forces are concerned about other garrisons in other areas where there are arsenals and strongmen and they are going to go into these other areas after this, so they can rid Jamaica of these garrisons that tend to be a law unto themselves".