Breakdown Of Family System Is Root Cause Of Crime And Violence

By Rev. Seth Ampadu, Superintendent Minister of the Methodist Church in St. Lucia.

IF we are to minimize the crime situation in the country, we must tackle the breakdown of our families. There is a saying that “violence begets violence”. Violent families are producing violent youths, and violent youths are producing violent communities. There is a need to reconsider our family system. To consider the family system “Sankofa” is the way to go. SANKOFA” is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana where I come from. The literal translation of the word and the symbol is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” The word is derived from the words: SAN (return), KO (go), FA (look, seek and take).

The Sankofa symbolises the Akan people’s quest for knowledge among the Akan with the implication that the quest is based on critical examination, and intelligent and patient investigation. The Akan’s believe the past serves as a guide for planning the future. To the Akan, there is wisdom in learning from the past which ensures a strong future. The Akan’s believe that there must be movement and new learning as time passes. As this forward march proceeds, the knowledge of the past must never be forgotten.

In reflecting on this Sankofa terminology in Akan Ghana, in relation to the crime situation in the country, there is the need to uncover the real root cause of criminal behaviour and learn how criminals are formed if we are to fight this growing threat in our communities. It is obvious that we need to go back to our extended family system. Looking at the statistics recently that make headlines all the time, the future of our communities appears bleak. If we look at the trend of events of crime, it appears that the breaking down of families and various social problems such as broken homes, drug abuse, alcohol addiction, have plagued our community. I am of the view that most of the criminals and those who cause violence in our communities might have witnessed many conflicts between their parents at home. Most of these people might have been sexually abused or physically abused by parents. Sometimes, it could be that some parents or siblings of those criminals may also be criminals themselves and therefore have very negative impact on the community.

It is important therefore to begin to considering the rebuilding of families and communities. I know it will not be easy to build back our family system but we can start from somewhere by considering our marriage system. I suggest that the “would-be couple” needs to go through thorough pre-marital counselling before the marriage. Sometimes when these would-be couples come for pre-marital counselling you could see they are in “a rush”, some of them allow the love to “blind” them and so they do not try to cooperate with the counsellor to uncover some of the weaknesses that will cause problems for them in the marriage.

It is also important to consider, that parents must love and nurture their children in spiritual as well as physical ways. In the absence of religious penetration or spirituality at home, it breaks down the family system. Parents must begin right from the word go to introduce their children to the fear of God which the good book says “it is the beginning of wisdom”. Children at home must be taught how to relate to people. This will depend on how the parents relate to them. Children at home must be taught by example how to show kindness, compassion and also empathise with others in school and communities. They must learn to cooperate with each other and see the community as “backbone of friendship”. The Africans have an adage that “it takes the whole village to raise a child”. It is needful, that as a community we see each child as belonging to us so that when we see them going astray we correct them in reasonable manner. Also as parents, when our children are being corrected for doing wrong we should not get angry. By so doing we will be able to minimize crime and violence in our communities. I believe that bringing up children by both parents is easier, when families live near each other and they could rely on the wisdom and support of the extended family it helps to foster cordial relationships in the community.

This is a call for all of us to recognise that parenting is a shared responsibility; it is a communal affair – not just the concern of parents or grandparents alone, but of the extended family. The Uncles, the aunts, the cousins, the neighbours and friends should all be involved and all have a part to play. This is what I am referring to as Sankofa this was what was existed before.

The way things are going, it is clear that family life has changed immensely, there is no connection between families, and it is like “each one for himself or herself” but God is for us all”. It seems there is kind of isolation and loneliness which has become the hallmark of our communities. When this happens, it reduces communication and interaction with others. This can create a certain kind of individualism and tension which is dangerous for every community that has to overcome crime and violence. Therefore, this is a call for all of us to embrace the “SANKOFA” ideology where we look back to the good old days of our extended family system where we support each other. Things are not out of hand yet, there is hope, and there is much hope for our future and the future of our children. Let us keep on seeking God in prayer and at the same time embrace Sankofa ideology.

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