Last week, I was impressed to read a story in The New Times titled “fighting drug abuse through gospel music”. It was about a gospel music campaign by Ambassadors of Christ Choir, one of the most prominent Adventist choirs in the country.
The purpose of the initiative is to sensitize and educate the youth to avoid taking illicit drugs or substances. The initiative targets schoolchildren, homes and communities. The initiative started in schools, as an epicentre of using such illicit drug or substance.
The use of drugs by adolescent schoolchildren is a global problem, and Rwanda is no exception. It remains a critical problem in most countries and is associated with several social and economic consequences. The use of illicit drugs is common among youth, especially high-school students and jobless individuals.
Adolescence is a life period marked by significant personal and social changes that are associated with unacceptably high substance use rates. Compared with adults, adolescents are more likely to be searching for purpose and identity.
Gospel music can orient high-school students, in particular, to a source for information or answers to myriad of problems they encounter. Dedicating to Jesus Christ can be guiding principles for behavior and opportunities for prosocial interaction.
Affiliation to religious paradigms is a protective effect against substance use.
Belonging to a particular church is instrumental construct referring to a person’s behavioral and attitudinal religious fervor, regardless of the content of a person’s belief.
When youth are God-fearing, God-dependent and God-loving, they are less likely to involve in dubious activities that would affect their future. When students involve more in religious activity, such as prayers, fellowships and/or in spiritually-related activity, such as religious teachings, faith youth groups and religious scholarship and bible study, there’re high chances of becoming resourceful citizens in society.
Religiosity has been viewed, for the most part, as an individual-level variable. However, because adolescents are under the authority of their parents, their religious involvement may be dictated by their parents.
But this shouldn’t be seen as a responsibility of parents alone but all stakeholders, including teachers, law enforcers and anyone who feels has a moral obligation to contribute to this noble cause.
Many youths may be required, or at least strongly encouraged, to attend church services as part of a family practice. In such cases, participation in church services enables them to grow spiritually, and in turn they become responsible instrumentalities of God, as well as society. As such, it includes an individual’s belief and attitude in addition to his or her behavior and activities.
Besides, affiliation to religion or commitment to its services has been associated with positive drug-related outcomes. It can protect adolescents against substance use in a number of ways. It may inhibit adolescent risk behavior by altering behavior-influencing values or by functioning as an external control factor.
Biblically, it is explicitly prohibited to use illicit drug or substances. In particular, bible poses a rhetorical question that: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are”.
It goes on to say “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or, do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him”.
These verses explicitly negate use of any substances that are harmful to our health. God is everywhere at all times, or maybe more appropriately, everywhere and all time are somehow inside of what God is.
However, throughout history, God has chosen to have a place where He had a special relationship with His most loved creation; humans. We call those places temples, or tabernacle, which means ‘a dwelling place’.
So, greater piety to gospel teachings or music may engender greater adherence to religiously prescribed conduct norms. As a matter of reality, adults and adolescents who believe in the importance of religion are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
Religious involvement can protect against substance use by providing opportunities for pro-social activities, which themselves may promote anti-drug conduct norms, and for interaction with non-deviant peers.
Youth who are involved in religious activities tend to form peer groups with youth who are involved in similar activities, and they are less likely to form friendships with deviant peers.
Youth who are less involved in religious activities may be more at risk. Substance users, for example, have been found to have lower church attendance and less participation in church activities.
Piety can also be associated with resilience, the ability to recover from adverse life events, such as substance addiction.
Many thanks to Ambassadors of Christ for a twofold music ministry: responding to spiritual and societal needs. Keep it up!
The writer is a law expert.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.