Pastor at Ezekiel’s funeral: ‘Save our youths from gangs’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Melissa Huggins, mother of Ezekiel Paria, is consoled at his funeral at the Life on the Hill Ministries, Laventille Road, Laventille. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

There was an outpouring of grief from Laventille residents on Thursday as Ezekiel Paria, a 12-year-old student who was killed by a stray bullet a week ago, was laid to rest.

Mourners packed the Light on the Hill Ministries- a two-bedroom house which had been converted into a church – to celebrate Paria’s life.

As his body lay in a baby-blue and white casket at the foot of the podium, Pastor Glenford James, in his sermon, asked, “What now, what next?”

Quoting Exodus 3:7, James said Paria’s death was far too familiar.

“I have surely seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”

In an effort to comfort Paria’s parents, he told them God knows and hears their sorrow and the painful cries of the children and parents of Laventille. He said they were crying out and Paria’s death was heavy on the community’s heart.

“Something is missing. We tried community policing, but things are still getting worse. We tried giving more jobs, but things are still getting worse. Something seems to be missing somewhere; we are not doing something.”

He called on Laventille and Trinidad and Tobago to turn to God for guidance.

James said despite government programmes such as the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (Ytepp) and Military-Led Academic Training Programme (Milat) and efforts to provide job opportunities with Cepep and URP, the blood of young people was running in the streets.

He again questioned what was missing to stem the scourge of violence.

James said the TTPS, other arms of security, and many government agencies were trying to battle the crime situation but only God can help.

“God knows something is missing; there is something we are not doing right. He is a good god, a god of mercy, a god of grace and a god of goodness, but he is also a god who will allow stuff to happen for reasons and purposes we may not understand.”

GOODBYE, EZEKIEL: Relatives and friends of Ezekiel Paria bid farewell to the schoolboy at his funeral at the Life on the Hill Ministries, Laventille Road, Laventille. Paria was killed by a stray bullet on February 22. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

James said there is always talk of love, but all the country sees is anger, saying the “mighty dollar” was dictating people’s behaviour and people were willing to do whatever it took to get it.

“Why is everyone so angry? Where is the love?”

He said Ezekiel had given his life to Christ, and he knew that the child was resting in the arms of his saviour. He called on those responsible for his death to repent, saying they would never be able to rest comfortably until they did.

The Light on the Hill Ministries youth group gave a sombre performance of Paria’s favourite gospel song, New Creation, as Paria’s aunt rested her head on a male relative’s shoulder, tears streaming down her cheeks from under her dark glasses.

Jeneiah Solomon of Eastern Girls’ Government Primary School and a classmate of Paria read individual poems.

Paria’s Sunday school teacher Crystal-Ann Colins told mourners Paria was an active member of the church and attended any event it held.

“If you knew Ezekiel, you knew he was well-behaved and respectful; we had no issues with him.

“Last year for vacation Bible school, he was standing where I stood, and the scripture verse we focused on was Second Corinthians 5:7: ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old man has passed away. Behold, the new has come.’

“He learned this scripture. Ezekiel gave his life to Christ. We might think he has gone too soon, but God knows his life was not in vain.”

She urged the mourners to send their children to church, saying, “Don’t just send them, come with them too. Old and young, you have to answer to God. We all have an appointed time. I am speaking to the mothers and fathers here today: our youth are the next generation, get them closer to God.”

Paria’s aunt Sandy Huggins gave the eulogy and described her nephew as mischievous at times but always loving.

“To say he was stubborn and hardened, I would never say that. He was always loving and kindhearted, someone who would do anything you asked him to do. You see I was late today; if he were here, he would say, ‘Aunty Sandy, you always late.’”

She shared stories of their times together and called his untimely death a part of life.

“We were put on the face of this earth to do what we were supposed to do and when our numbers are called, we have to answer. It is so hard, after 11 years after my other sister was murdered the same way, we have to come back here again to go through this same situation. How on earth could you watch a little child and just shoot up the place?”

She questioned the reason for warring gangs in the community, saying, “Everybody grew up together. What is this war for? We live together.

“May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

She called on her community to be a guide and be each other’s keeper.

James opened the floor for mourners to share their stories of Paria.

A shopkeeper who gave her name only as Jemma said, “He used to come and say to me, ‘Yuh do have no lil jobs for me to do?’

“Every day after school, he would come and buy his pack juice.”

She then broke out into song, singing Blessed Assurance and moving the congregation to tears, her voice filling the already crammed space with an even heavier sadness.

HEARTBROKEN: A relative of Ezekiel Paria weeps at his funeral at the Life on the Hill Ministries, Laventille Road, Laventille. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

National Parent-Teacher Association president Walter Stewart spoke with Newsday after the service.

He said students and teachers of schools in East Port of Spain have been wearing black ribbons to bring awareness of Paria’s death and called on those in authority to find solutions to the crime situation.

He said Paria’s death was not just the grief of his parents but of the entire country.