Ongoing violent clashes between criminal gangs and the military and police in Kingston, Jamaica, are affecting The Salvation Army on the Caribbean island. The Army’s training college, which is only a few blocks from the fiercest fighting, has had bullets through its windows. Cadets and staff from the college wait to be evacuated with their children as soon as the police feel it is safe for them to leave the premises.
A state of emergency was declared in Kingston as gangs from across the country moved in to protect an alleged drug kingpin who is to be extradited to the USA on drug- and gun-running charges. Latest reports say as many as 60 people have been killed, including three policemen and a member of the military. Hospitals are reporting an influx of injured and traumatised civilians.
Lieut-Colonel Lindsay Rowe (Chief Secretary of The Salvation Army’s Caribbean Territory) reports that the area around territorial headquarters is so far less affected, as is the Havendale area where most headquarters staff live and where the Salvation Army school for the blind is located. Once it is safe for them to leave, cadets and their families will be moved to the school complex until the situation is resolved.
Territorial headquarters was closed on Tuesday (25 May) because police roadblocks made access to the offices extremely difficult but a decision on keeping the offices open is being reviewed daily. The priority is ensuring the safety of the people who work there. The US Embassy, Canadian High Commission and public schools are all closed until further notice.
‘We are safe at home but can hear gunfire in the immediate area as gangs continue to engage the police and military,’ says Lieut-Colonel Rowe. ‘There are no reports of injury to Salvation Army officers, cadets or Salvationists.’
Kingston Central Corps (Salvation Army church) has been closed and the colonel adds: ‘We do have Salvationists from Kingston Central Corps living in the areas where the unrest is taking place and we continue to support them in prayer. Please pray for the safety of all Salvationists in the area and for the country of Jamaica.’