Jamaica (MNN) — As government troops continue their search for drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke in Kingston, Jamaica, the death toll rose about 70 on Friday from the gunfire between the armed group protecting Coke and police, according to The Wall Street Journal and Guardian News. Sadly, civilians have been the main victims.
Coke, wanted on drug and gun-trafficking charges, is fighting extradition to the U.S. As his loyal men fight to protect him, Guardian expects even more lives to be lost.
Jamaica holds a special place in Andrew Palau's heart, having accepted Christ there in 1993 at a conference for his father's ministry, Luis Palau Evangelical Association, and having married a Jamaican woman.
Palau said the situation in Jamaica right now is a complicated and tangled mess, stemming from years ago, "It all goes back thirty years ago really. Politicians encouraged certain types of sort of gangs to be gathered around political energy … Now, that the drugs have become so strong, it's caused some imbalance in those original relationships."
While many want a quick end to the violence, Palau said the only way for this conflict to be completely resolved is the extradition of Coke and the breakdown of Jamaica's criminal organizations. If the situation is just brushed over now, violence and animosity will be stirred upon once again in the future.
Currently, the violence is localized to Tivoli Gardens ghetto in Kingston, but there at the heart of the conflict, businesses and schools are closed, and buses have stopped running. And Palau said while violence may not be affecting the whole nation, the escalating situation affects Jamaica's reputation and stability.
In the midst of everything, LPA is backing the local church, as they stand firm and try to bring stability: "Right now, nobody would venture into those areas, but the church is there," Palau said. The church is there to answer questions about eternity that often arise at times like these.
And they want to be there when people begin to search beyond earthly systems that have failed them. Palau said, "Ultimately, even good systems in this world fail us … With Christ, all things are possible and with Christ, He doesn't promise perfection in life. He doesn't promise us freedom from challenge or trouble, but He does promise that in those things He is with us and that He can provide miraculously peace that passes all understanding."
Pray diligently for Jamaica during this turbulent time. Pray for the church to remain a beacon of hope amidst continued violence.
Click here for more prayer requests and to learn more about the ministry of Andrew and Luis Palau in Jamaica or around the world.