JAMAICA-Bishop condemns murder of young pastor

James Johnson shot and killed in a church

The Administrative Bishop of the Church Of God of Prophecy, Winston Leith, has condemned the murder of one of the pastors of the church saying “the temple was desecrated by spineless men who think that they have the right to take a life”.

Jamaica police are continuing their searching for the lone gunman who reportedly walked into the Church and shot and killed James Johnson a 29-year-old pastor who was at the time teaching a class.

Police have given no motive for the murder, but there has been an outpouring of grief on social media for Johnson who was reportedly the only son of his parents. The issue was also spoken about during Friday’s sitting of the Senate.

“It was far from my imagination; the temple was desecrated by spineless men who think that they have the right to take a life. And we are asking God for swift justice to honour His words and honour our request. We are asking Him for speedy justice,” Bishop Leith told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

He described the murdered pastor as a “son” and that he had last spoken with him mere hours before his was killed.

“We have lost a valuable young man, one who I think had a bright future in this church. He was at the time doing his Master’s degree in religion. He had completed 19 subjects, with one pending in January for graduation in May, when he would receive a Master of Arts degree in Religion from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary from Boston… when suddenly his life was taken,” Bishop Leith said, adding that the slaying of the clergyman is a “dark day in the nation”.

He said he was urging people with information on the murder to help the police solve the crime.

“We cannot have prosperity in a nation where crime, violence and corruption are the order of the day. We cannot continue to have communities shielding men who take life at will.

“We cannot continue to condone these criminal activities and expect that this nation is going to prosper. The pain is too much. Too many young Jamaicans, too much children, too much seniors are dying prematurely because of criminality.

“We cannot continue to tolerate this sort of behaviour among us. The barbaric way it was done, the callousness of these men. Their hearts are desperately evil and they have no regard for human lives, no regard for God, and no regard for the sanctuary,” he hold the Observer newspaper.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said “the invasion of murder into a church — a sacred place of worship — is utterly reprehensible”.

He said senior investigators have been assigned to the case and he is confident of an arrest.

“I am urging all persons with any information concerning this gruesome act to come forward and share their information with the police,” Chang said, adding “James Johnson will be remembered as a bright, passionate Jamaican who was engaged in his community, his church and nation-building”.

Meanwhile, government and opposition legislators Friday condemned the murder with the leader of Government business Kamina Johnson Smith saying “it is inescapable that I am thinking about the killing of James Johnson within the state of emergency.

“He was known to many of us in here, and it is unthinkable that persons who may have just interacted with him a few days ago, someone with the energy and love of life as James, would have his life snuffed out…” the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister said.

“We have understood anectdotally that even among gunmen there used to be rules: babies, pregnant women, elders, churches were sacrosanct, violence should not be perpetrated against persons within these categories, or in those cases. But it seems that those rules don’t exist anymore.

“It seems that it should go without saying that that everything is out the door. If there are no barriers to violence, then the State must assert extra-ordinary measures, because it must be that Jamaica returns to a place where you can go to church at 5 o’clock in the evening to teach a class,” Johnson Smith told legislators.

Newly elected vice-president of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Damion Crawford, said that Johnson was making an important contribution to the society, as he was voluntarily teaching children at the church when he was killed.

His opposition colleague, Lambert Brown, said that Johnson’s murder showed that the prime minister was wrong about “criminals on the run” under the current state of emergency (SOE) and zones of special operations (ZOSOs).

He noted that the shooter walked into the church and fired seven shoots into Johnson, and walked out without being apprehended.

“That certainly tells me that the criminals are not on the run. The prime minister is wrong on that,” Brown added.

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