Pubdate: Tue, 11 May 1999
Source: Advertiser, The (Australia)
Author: Mia Handshine


"There is not enough darkness in the whole world that can extinguish the
light of one candle"

Six hundred mothers held a candelight vigil in Glasgow last year.  Their
hope was that they might give people the courage to begin to tear down the
walls of fear which had been built in their community as a result of drugs.

It was the death of a 13-year-old boy, used by his mother's boyfriend as a
drug runner, which prompted the vigil.  The boy died from an overdose of
drugs given to him by his "carers".

His lifeless body remained unnoticed in his own house, until mauled by the
family dog.

The outrage of one mother in the housing estate in which the boy lived was
enough to bring the 600 women together.  They had lived in fear and silence,
aware of what was going on in the community, but feeling
powerless to change the situation.

Their actions became a catalyst for opening up the issue.  Within a short
time, the real criminals, the dealers were brought to account.

Only last week in Australia, we saw a similar approach to the drug issue
where the welfare and lives of the victims became the priority.

In fact, those taking this proactive step were willing to risk sanction for
the safety of their community.  The Wayside Chapel, part of the institution
so many claim is irrelevant and outdated, has acted in the most practical
way in response to the drug issue, by providing a safe haven for users of

The church does not condone illegal drug use.  However, with regard to the
Wayside Chapel, it is evident that those involved have witnessed the tragedy
and suffering, and sometimes death, which result from heroin abuse and
decided to deal with what it is, rather than waiting and hoping that things
might change of their own accord.

Their boldness and courage has been in their willingness to embrace the
problem and respond to it.

Many will condemn the response.  But I guess, it's always easier to pass
judgment from a safe distance, where we can wash our hands of the entire
problem.  Safe havens such as Wayside can have considerable impact on the
drug situation.

The potential for such places to create life-saving contact is enormous,
especially when part of the focus is the provision of support and
counselling services.  The ultimate aim of any program should be
rehabilitation from drug abuse, but there is also the need to help addicts
reconnect with the community.

We can either continue to treat addicts as criminals and hail down any
attempt to minimise harm as perpetuating the problem, or we can place our
prejudices aside and recognise the futility of blame.

While this may not be the best solution to the drug problem it is, at the
very least, a response to the immediate needs of fallible human beings who
need our compassion much more than our judgment.

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