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February 20, 2013
Star Features



I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to sit in ignorant bliss or heartless apathy in the face of this relentlessly increasing scourge in our society called violence and abuse against women and children. But what do you and I do about it? What are we prepared to do?

Early in the year, in the space of 24 hours, four-year-old Rushaun Burford was mercilessly shot by an angry young man while he cowered and screamed under a bed, and 14-year-old Sheriefa Saddler was abducted on her way to school, raped, murdered and her body later dumped near to her home. And just last week 16-year-old Martha Byrowe was viciously stabbed to death, allegedly by her 'boyfriend' - a man in his 30s.

What do we do as a society? Yeah, I know; we can issue proclamations of condemnation and make calls for stronger punitive action. We do that quite well. But is that enough? Yvonne Coke, the founder Hands Across Jamaica for Righteousness, is doing something else. She has set herself on a 60-day period of fasting and silence from January 7 to March 7. She reportedly taped her mouth shut, and for the 60 days she will, in her own words, "pray that God would turn the hearts of the Jamaican people back to the covenant He made with us in our motto, anthem and pledge" and "pray for the individual and collective renewal of our solemn national pledge to bring an end to violence in Jamaica".

She will also walk during weekdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in front of the monument to children killed by violence that stands at the intersection of Church and Tower streets in downtown Kingston.

Coke's action is partly stirred by the late 2012 murder of Janice Smith and Dianne Beech, two women she knew personally. But she's convinced that she was called by God to do this, and obviously, she feels it will make a difference. What you think?

Mass Gussie, writing in his 'Hello Mi Neighbour' column in The Gleaner (Wednesday January 30, 2013), said, "Yvonne Coke's 60-day fast in silence for the restoration of peace and goodwill among Jamaicans is not just out-of-the-box action; it's an out-of-the-world undertaking!" He lauds this courageous woman who will "lay aside food for 60 days as she petitions God for an end to communal atrocities and rank disregard for the sanctity of life, even that of the young and vulnerable." That's one view.

waste of time

Writing in The Sunday Gleaner on February 3, 2013, with a tone bordering on derision, Ian Boyne has another. He cites the futility of such actions. Boyne says, "Yvonne Coke, bless her soul, is carrying out a 60-day fast of food and conversation to bring the nation back to Christ. All she will accomplish is to lose some weight and save some breath. It will have absolutely no effect on the wickedness of this nation."

According to the respected columnist and talk show host, the murder of Sheriefa and Rushaun have taken place since Sister Yvonne has gone on her fasting, so "she might as well eat her food and chat with her friends on BB". And this is a churchman talking. Boyne goes on to rightly remind readers that our criminals are getting more and more vicious and ruthless.

Challenging the lame tokenistic (non)activity of Church and State Boyne continues: "We hold prayer breakfasts, including a national one every third Thursday in January, but if they have any perceptible effect on the moral climate of the country, or, in the case of the National Leadership Prayer Break-fast, on most of the leaders gathered to eat, pray and talk about love, nobody has informed me. But I am still open - and listening."

Yvonne Coke isn't just praying; she's also taking a kind of action. Yeah, it may be purely symbolic, but it is something. And if nothing else, it stirs me to again ask me, and you, those questions. What can we do? What are we prepared to do?


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