(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Administrative Bishop of the Church Of God of Prophecy Winston Leith yesterday called for the swift apprehension of the gunman responsible for Thursday’s murder of one of its ministers of religion in St Catherine.
James Johnson, one of the youngest licensed ordained ministers in the Church Of God of Prophecy, was shot dead at 41 Old Harbour Road in St Catherine while he was teaching a class inside the church.
According to the constabulary’s Corporate Communications Unit, Johnson, a 29-year-old pastor from Union Estate in the parish, was reportedly in the middle of teaching a class, about 5:00 pm, when a gunman entered and shot him several times.
According to Bishop Leith, “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,” he told the Jamaica Observer in a telephone interview yesterday.
Bishop Leith, who said he last saw the 29-year-old pastor approximately 2:15 pm Thursday, said he was like a son to him.
“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,” the bishop said.
He described the brutal slaying of the clergyman as a “dark day in the nation”.
However, he said the church fraternity will not be daunted.
In the meantime, Bishop Leith urged people who may have information on the killing to speak up.
“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 added.
Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, in condemning the killing of the clergyman, said “the invasion of murder into a church — a sacred place of worship — is utterly reprehensible”.
Dr Chang said senior investigators in the St Catherine North Police Division and the Major Investigations Division have been assigned to the case and he is anticipating the reports and arrest of the criminal(s) found responsible for the murder.
“I am urging all persons with any information concerning this gruesome act to come forward and share their information with the police,” Minister Chang appealed last night.
“James Johnson will be remembered as a bright, passionate Jamaican who was engaged in his community, his church and nation-building,” said the security minister.