August 6, 2018 | St. Croix, US Virgin Islands | NCC Staff/IAD Staff
Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists across the island of St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, took to the streets last month to take a stand against violence. Communities on the island are alarmed that within the last months, five homicides have taken place on St. Croix; three were the result of gun violence, local church leaders said.
The beat from the Adventist Church’s V.I. Pulse Drum Corps drew people to the streets to witness the marchers and their messages, written on placards, that read “stop the violence”, “I said yes to Jesus”, “hugs not drugs”, “know Jesus know peace”, “every life matters” and “enough is enough”.
In addressing the crowd, Pastor Anthony Hall, youth ministry director for the Caribbean Union, stated, “We have invited you here to make one big statement. We are saying no to crime and violence, not only in St. Croix but anywhere there is crime and violence.”
The march, coined as “A March of Witness” culminated the many community impact programs which were organized by the youth department of the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) for the annual senior youth camp, July 12-23, 2018. Hundreds of youth traveled from the conference’s nine islands to take part in the 10-day event.
Residents, visitors and onlookers welcomed and endorsed the call for peace in their community. Local online newspaper, VI Consortuim, reported that Cassandra Rammidi and her boyfriend, Brendon Kuch, were walking the Christiansted streets Saturday while vacationing from their Michigan home. The sounds of the drum beats got their attention. They looked on while Rammidi’s brother, Theophilus, joined participant Reata Randolph in marching and chanting. “They bring so much energy to it. It’s just so fun, and they speak what they feel,” Kuch said. “I love the drum line.”
Rammidi agreed that the rhythm was a powerful way to bring attention to the participants’ message because music “brings connections to everybody.”
“I think that it’s really great that they’re bringing notice to the problems on St. Croix and the fact that they are speaking against it,” she said.
The residents of Christiansted, the largest town on the island, welcomed and endorsed the call for peace in their community.
“Yes, the killings need to stop,” said Pastor Desmond James, president of the church in North Caribbean. An elderly lady nodded her head and gave a ‘thumbs-up’ signal that she was in favor of the appeal being made. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is happy to partner with the authorities in the fight against crime and violence,” said James, “We need to love and respect each other.”
“As we walk through the communities today, we are sending the message that we want peace, we want no more killings,” said Dr. Vincent A. David, youth ministries director for the North Caribbean islands. “We want to demonstrate the God-like way of living.”
During the ten-day camp, Adventist youth from around the NCC participated in two beach clean ups, facilitated by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources of the Virgin Islands Government, and offered care packages to seniors at the Sunny Isle Elderly Housing and the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged. In addition, young people hosted free health screenings for the public at a shopping center in partnership with the Virgin Islands Departments of Health and Human Services.
Young people also took part in the ongoing renovation project at the Island Center for the Performing Arts.
“This is what being a Christian is all about,” said Hall.
The activities are not only meant to benefit the public, said Dr. David, but also meant to assist the growth of the youth. “By taking a stand against broken families, substance abuse and crime, and by offering solutions to those problems, our youth will benefit from a strengthened resolve.”
To learn more about the Adventist Church in the North Caribbean Conference, visit northcaribbeanconference.org