Forty years ago, Jamaica experienced some of the most turbulent times in its modern history. For many persons, peace was elusive and the more than 1,000 lives that were lost bore stark testimony to those frightening events. It was out of this period of testing and trial, and the ashes of political violence that the National Prayer Breakfast was born.
The cynical will say that the annual National Prayer Breakfast has since lost its purpose and significance, however, I beg to differ. Without events such as the annual Prayer Breakfast, the Prayer Vigil, the Heal the Nation- Heal the Family Day of Prayer, and the sincere intercessions of persons of faith across the Island, I think the situation would be much worse.
The call for ‘Divine intervention’ is not a trite expression but it is a real need. Yes, we are alarmed by the apparent out of control crime and violence, we have witnessed in our beloved country over the past years. We understand as American philosopher, Thomas Paine did in the 1770s, that these are “times that try men’s souls”. However, we cannot give up hope.
Paine urged his countrymen back then not to “shrink from the service of their country, but those who stand by it deserve the love and thanks of everyone . . . the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Maybe, in some way this morning we can be inspired to earn the love and thanks of our country by ensuring we curb this pandemic . We need a national initiative to get to the root of the problem and unrelentingly focus our attention on this specific goal to yield success – a ‘National will’ over a period of time.
One aspect of the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast that we must not overlook is the annual donations we make to charitable projects. The donations have risen exponentially over the past 32 years. From Nine Thousand Dollars in 1987, and a total of some 122.4 million dollars have been collected and disbursed to deserving persons and organizations.
Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, distinguished men and women, these funds have helped in medical care, construction of infrastructure for the homeless, assistance to children in State care, education, flood relief, and skills training programmes.
It is activities like these that convince me of the continuing relevance of this annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast of which I am proud to be the Patron.
I recognize the role of the Church, Community, Private Sector, Government, Parliament and all Agencies of the State, the Voluntary Sector, and individual citizens who support this initiative.
I encourage our leaders in all sectors of our society to develop a holistic approach to whatever you do and model what is in the best interest of our country and humanity. On our part, we should heed the advice given by St Paul to “pray for those in authority, so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”
Let us all seek to be ‘Ambassadors of Peace’ or ‘Instruments of Peace’ if you will, and take to heart the Prayer for fellow combatants by
St. Francis of Assisi and:
Where there is hatred, sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, shed joy.
Although the peace we need seems to elude us at times, we should at this crucial time imbibe and demonstrate as we lead in the thrust for peace in our country because that’s when the impact is made.
In spite of the turmoil, we can be purveyors of hope, providers of support and encouragement, and beacons of light helping people to peace.
Our Theme this morning urges us to “Pursue the Power of Peace”. When we are at peace with ourselves we are better able to be at peace with others. That to me is the real Power that Peace provides. That is the state of mind we should be pursuing. Imagine how that would impact our relationships at home, work, community and our nation!
Let this peace we seek be a call to action to take back our country, and make it the place for the people we are proud to be.
God bless you.