In the Christmas spirit of a new start and a second chance at life, one of the nations largest Christian relief and development organizations has helped free dozens of prisoners in Latin America in time for them to spend the holiday with their families.
Food For The Poor (FFP) released a total of 78 prisoners this month by paying the fine required for their discharge. The prisoners were incarcerated for minor, non-violent offenses such as failure to pay rent or stealing a loaf of bread. However, some prisoners were held up to two years because they could not afford to pay their fines which, for example, could be $20.
For Christians, Christmas is a season of hope because of the birth of Jesus, said Angel A. Aloma, executive director of Food For The Poor, during an interview Friday. So symbolically, we thought that Christmas and Easter, which reminds us of the hope in the resurrection of Christ, would be good times to do this.
In Guyana, 39 prisoners held at the Georgetown Prison in the capital city were released on Friday, Dec. 15. Earlier in the month, 31 prisoners from four Jamaican prisons were released on Dec. 4-5 and eight prisoners from the San Pedro Sula Prison were released in Honduras. In total, 700 prisoners have been released since the FFP programs inception in 2000.
The prison program is our response to the Lords command to visit and care for those who are in prison, said Robin Mahfood, president of Food For The Poor, in a statement Monday.
The men who are selected for release have demonstrated a real desire to become productive members of society, and only lack the means to accomplish their own release.
We can show Christs love in this way, and demonstrate to them that we truly believe in their restoration.
Following the release, a department in the local FFP office provides Biblically-based counseling to the newly freed person. The department also helps the former prisoner find a job, provide tools and skills training if necessary, or even build a home to help give him a new start.
So it is not just let them out of prison and boom they are free and let them go back to whatever they did before that might get them back in jail, explained Aloma. We really try to help them economically, financially and spiritually to get a better hold of their life.
Aloma noted that often times the love of God seen through the kindness of Christians securing their release affects their conversion and acceptance of Christ in their lives.
We have seen many of them really become solid, upstanding Christians after their release and [through] working with them afterwards, he said.
For more information visit: www.foodforthepoor.org