Jamaican national security minister, Peter Bunting, participated in the Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist Church's day of prayer for the nation's independence on Saturday (August 3), according to the Jamaica Observer. Bunting emphasized “the need for divine intervention to address the country's crime problem,” a theme that elicited political criticism when he expressed the opinion in April of this year at Northern Caribbean University, an Adventist liberal arts institution in Jamaica with an enrollment of nearly 6,000 students.
Despite calls for Bunting's resignation following his April speech, which had been interpreted by some to mean Bunting's forces were unable to respond adequately to criminal activity, Mandeville Church pastor Greg Baldeo spoke in support of Bunting's statement. “In essence, what he was actually doing is calling on all of God's people who are called by God's name to humble themselves, and call a fast and pray for God's divine intervention," the newspaper reports Baldeo as saying.
Baldeo insisted that his support for Bunting's message should not be misconstrued as partisan politics. “Let me state this categorically, that the only time I have ever voted in my life is in the 1980s when I entered the baptismal pool with my mother and voted to follow Jesus all the way." He continues, “I am not defending the statement in light of the party the minister represents; I am defending it in light of the God I represent.”
CVM TV, one of Jamaica's two major television stations, reported that Bunting told the congregation on Saturday that all concerned groups need to cooperate in the fight against crime. He highlighted the “paradox that Jamaica has so many churches, but is one of the most murderous places on earth. He wants the churches to partner with other stakeholders.”
In response to his critics, Bunting released a statement on the website of the Jamaican Ministry of National Security in an attempt to clarify “misunderstandings” regarding his “remarks over the weekend at the 13th Annual Prayer and Thanksgiving Service for the security forces at Northern Caribbean University.” Bunting said his April speech was given “against the background of challenges facing the security forces and a spate of senseless domestic killings which account for so many innocent lives, and which law enforcement is almost powerless to prevent. ... It was against this background that I reaffirmed my belief in the need for Divine intervention to touch the hearts of Jamaicans to bring about a change in our culture to help win the war on crime.” Addressing the motivation for his original message, Bunting stated that he “in no way intended to signal any position of retreat, but rather an affirmation of the contribution of a faith-based belief system shared by a majority of Jamaicans.”
Baldeo likewise affirms the role of faith in improving society. According to the Jamaica Observer, Baldeo reminded the Mandeville congregation on Saturday “that the Christian battle is not carnal but spiritual,” calling “members to three days of prayer and fasting, starting yesterday through to Independence Day.”
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