By Sonia Boddie
St.Kitts and Nevis Caricom Youth Ambassador
As I lay in my bed on the night of Thursday 9th January, 2014, I was abruptly disturbed by a BBM message which informed me that one of my High School mates was shot and killed. The following night as I lay in my bed once again, I was disturbed by the sound of gun shots which left me very terrified, and then the sounds of sirens and later another BBM message, which informed that indeed another youngster had been shot and injured. Two days later, on Sunday morning when I awoke, the first thing I overheard in my household, were conversations that there was another shooting incident the night before. As I logged on to a local news website, it was confirmed, that indeed there was another shooting incident just after midnight. To my surprise, I saw that I had been sent a BBM message while I was asleep, indicating that there was a second shooting the night before, not too far from where I live.
Hence, from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th January, there had been a shooting incident every single day, in four separate communities. As I sat up in my bed and reflected on all these shootings that involved young people, I was not only left worried about my safety and security, and that of the people of my country, but I recognized that too many youngsters were resorting to gun violence to resolve conflicts, instead of finding peaceful means of resolving their issues. I was then forced to ponder, What could be done to educate our young sons of the soil, that Peaceful Conflict Resolution is a Must, if we wish to see a bright and prosperous future for this our land of beauty?
It then dawned on me, that certainly this lesson must be taught from a very early age. Therefore as a nation, let us remember to teach our children that “me na tek no last lick” is not the way to go, but that they should tell someone in authority when someone has done them something wrong, instead of retaliating. To those parents who delight in telling their children that “ anybody hit you when you go a school, hit dem back”, it is high time you desist from such a practise, as it is inevitably creating a culture of retaliation and a continual perpetuation of violence in our society. Let us however, remind our children that the “eye for an eye” mentality would only increase the numbers of homicides or the numbers of maimed persons living within our Federation. Let us therefore, continue to warn our sons and even our daughters, that becoming a member of a violent gang, is not a guarantee of protection, but rather an opportunity for their lives to be placed at a greater danger, even after they may have decided to no longer be a gang member.
More importantly, let us make it clear to our children, that the more victims of gun violence, the greater the possibilities of there being more children without a father to love, care, nurture and financially support their needs, more single mother headed households, more families weeping at the loss of their sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and nephews. Let us also remind our youth that they should never attempt to take the law into their own hands, but allow those men and women employed to protect and serve us to do their jobs.
Let us as adults teach our children and young people how to dialogue, that is, how to agree to disagree, how to express our differences in opinion, and how to respect other people’s opinion, without our conversations escalating into a violent situation. Let us teach the children of this Federation, how important it is to express that we are “sorry”, when we would have committed some type of injustice to another person, and how to forgive others, as the Father almighty forgives us, when we seek his forgiveness. Let us encourage our children to capitalize on the counselling services that are freely offered by the Guidance Counsellors assigned to all schools within our Federation, and even those of pastors and respected elders in our society, to deal with anger management and other issues. Moreover, let us encourage our youth to channel their excessive energies and time, into activities that contribute to building a stronger and more unified St.Kitts and Nevis, where all citizens and visitors alike can live peacefully and amicably.
Finally, let us as adults lead by example and be positive role models for our youth. Let us as Leaders, Preachers, Politicians, Businessmen, Teachers and Citizens alike, resolve our conflicts peacefully, without resorting to violent alternatives.
Again, I implore you, young, old and in between that, Peaceful Conflict Resolution is Must, if we would hope for the words of our National Anthem to hold true, that indeed, we are “ A Country where Peace Abounds.”