Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Residents want Yahweh church out

Published:Friday | June 9, 2023 | 12:24 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
In this file photo Vernon Ellis (right), Senior Superintendent of Police, gesticulates while speaking with Dr Horace Chang, National Security Minister, and Clifford Chambers, Assistant Commissioner of Police, during a tour of the community of Mount Salem i
Vernon Ellis (right), Senior Superintendent of Police, gesticulates while speaking with Dr Horace Chang, National Security Minister, and Clifford Chambers, Assistant Commissioner of Police, during a tour of the community of Mount Salem in St James on Saturday. Ellis outlined details of a raid by several government stakeholders at the Bayith Yahweh compound in Paradise, St James, yesterday.

WESTERN BUREAU:

RESIDENTS OF Paradise in Montego Bay have expressed concern that the authorities have been slow to respond to fears of child abuse and other infractions related to the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) at the Bayith Yahweh complex in their community.

According to them, it is a known fact that young girls 16 and under are being forced to enter into marriages with older men.

Yesterday, between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., some 50 police and soldiers carried out an operation at the premises in collaboration with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, the fire department, and the Criminal Investigation Bureau

“The concerns relate to breaches in education and health. And a fire department inspection found electrical bridges and a fire defence system, among other concerns,” Superintendent of Police in charge of St James, Vernon Ellis, told The Gleaner.

He said that during the operation, 23 children, 15 boys and eight girls, who were residents on the compound, were removed, interviewed, and brought before Judge Pamela Blackhall at the St James Family Court.

They are to return to court on July 5.

In a release issued later in the afternoon, the CPFSA says the children were aged 1-17 and “are temporarily being accommodated at a safe location, and will be provided the necessary intervention”.

“The CPFSA is mandated to provide care and protection for children at risk or otherwise deemed to be in need of care and protection in Jamaica in keeping with the CCPA,” said Michelle McIntosh Harvey, acting CEO, CPFSA, pointing to Section (8 of the CCPA, which outlines circumstances in which children are deemed to be in need of care and protection

McIntosh Harvey added: “During such situations, and as first responders, we would have acted accordingly in the best interest of the children involved, as their well-lbeing is our priority. Our officers are still on the ground ensuring that the children’s needs are met at the highest level.”

It is not the first time that security forces have raided the premises, but residents are growing weary of seeing the presence of police and soldiers storming the church without getting any tangible results.

“It doesn’t feel good seeing the police and soldiers come over and over again because of this church. This has been going on for the last couple of years, and since the first incident take place, no one could imagine the facility remaining there so long without the Government doing something about it,” lamented James Montaque.

“It (the church) should never have been here for so long,” he argued, noting that the community is of the opinion that children and young girls are being molested at the facility.

Montaque says a church should be a safe place, particularly, for children.

Another member of the community, John, said he couldn’t associate the word church “with a thing like that because as we know, growing up, a place called church is where we go worship, praise the Lord, and all these things. But we no go deh fi see all sort a manner a evil against the younger generation.”

He said the minds of the youngsters were being corrupted.

“The one dem weh a lead the younger generation them to the path a destruction fi just get rid a dem out a di system,” he stated. “Prison and jail too good fi dem right now.”

He also said the religious group was bad for the community.

“And based on the crime rate in the parish, this makes it even worse.”

Another community member, Robert, who was invited by a member to attend the church, said that he had seen people being punished while placed to stand at attention in the scorching sun. He declined after witnessing this type of punishment.

“Every cent them earn, them have to carry it to the pastor,” he also revealed.

The facility neighbours the former Pathways International Kingdom Church, which was operated by the late Kevin Smith.

Approximately 100 people live on the compound.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com