By Seth Ampadu -Superintendent, Methodist Church, St Lucia
Should we not also consider the question of poverty when looking at the causes of crime and violence in our communities across the Caribbean region?
Is it not possible that some people feel left out or cheated in our society while others are living a lavish lifestyle and as a result they commit crime? Today, in our region, it is clear that many people go to bed hungry but our politicians insist that “everything is fine”. Are these politicians telling us the truth about the state of the economy? Do they go to the same supermarket that we do? The fact is when there is poverty among the masses, it could lead to crime and other social vices. “Them people” promise us good jobs, where are the jobs? They promise us good health, where is it? They promise us better lives where is this better life?
Poverty is said to be the most prominent cause of crime. It is a state in which a person lacks sufficient income to lead a sustainable life. It breeds many ill effects in a society. It is true that poverty breeds crime because every person has some basic needs, and it is necessary for him or her to fulfill such needs. Food, clothes and accommodation are the basic needs of a person. They have to be fulfilled somehow
The honest truth is, when people do not have enough resources to fulfill their own and their family’s basic needs of health care, clothing, food, better education and all those things which are consider to be necessary for a happy life, they will consider crime as a means of obtaining them. It is so sad that today, there has been a big gap between the “poor” and the “rich” in our societies. The rich are getting richer and richer while the poor are getting poorer and poorer. Is it because of “bad” economic policies of our politicians intentionally to favor the rich as against the poor? When this gap is being created, the poor people who are at disadvantage and disappointed by the harsh behavior of the rich in the community will do “anything” to survive. Sometimes, they will even murder innocent people for their benefit because our society today treats poor people very badly. This situation turns to develop criminal thoughts in the mind of the poor because the “devil has work for idle hands” so the saying goes.
It is a fact that poverty breeds criminal activities. Believe it or not poverty is the major factor that goes into making criminals in our communities. For all you know, poor people are sometimes driven to desperation because they are poor. Sometimes, some of these people drink excessively. Some of them involve in the drug trade because they want to get rich and get out of the poverty tag. Some of them also become violent because they are not happy about how society treats them. So you see, poverty is life threatening, it affects human dignity and therefore should not be ignored by our political leaders. Our leaders must know and understand that every person is made in the image of God. The question is, can a poor man or woman reflect the image of God adequately? Poverty denies freedom. Freedom is part of the image humanity shares with God. Poverty therefore affects God’s image and plan in humanity
To be able to mitigate crime and violence in our communities, I think it is important for our leaders to do their best to eliminate or reduce the rate of poverty in our communities. They should stop living lavishly and commit our little resources to create jobs for our young people. It is sad that we are in a region where today some of our citizens could not make ends meets; where others resort to demeaning practices in an attempt to survive; where thousands are open to abuse and exploitation due to ignorance; where many are slaves to destructive practices.
In the church that I pastor, almost each day we see people lining up in front of my office coming to beg for assistance ranging from, money to pay bills, money to buy cooking gas, money to buy food, money to buy pampers for their infant babies. It seems our leaders have created a “begging society” where people stand at the entrance of almost every supermarket begging for a dollar to survive. I ask the question, as our political leaders, do you care about the brokenness of some of our poor brothers and sisters in our communities? As leaders, do you care about the fact that some people in our country go around begging for a dollar just to survive? Some may do it deliberately but most of them are genuine. These are the same people when you are contesting for political leadership you go to them, you walk through the rain, through the sun and knock their doors because you want their votes. What has changed? After you win, when they call you, you don’t pick up your phone. When going to your constituency your car windows are tinted so that nobody will see you. When they come to your office you tell your secretary to go and tell them you are not in. So you are lying?
It is time for our political leaders to emulate the example of Jesus’ leadership style. Jesus, announced his leadership mission by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). Jesus’ leadership was to overcome the enemies of life and to restore life as God intended it. Jesus once said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). As leaders, there must be a sense of responsibility to the poor and the needy. If Jesus has concern for the poor, you as leaders must also demonstrate your concern for the poor and the needy.
Jesus’ intention was for every person, or family, to have equality of economic opportunity. If our political leaders will replicate these examples of Jesus, then, crime and violence will be reduced. There are many ways through which we can help the poor; for example we can help them by providing small loans, business training, mentorship and micro enterprise services, which will help people living in poverty in establish their own businesses. By supporting the poor in this way, you enable them to provide for their families with dignity and live a better life.