Montego Bay, Jamaica..Shadeka Haye/JAMU |
Pastor Glen Samuels, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica, western region has challenged Seventh-day Adventists not to exploit their freedom of speech and religious liberty for wrong, but to use it to advance freedom for others.
“We speak and argue for the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, political freedom,” said Pastor Samuels. “I know that the freedom of speech can be exploited, it can cause the inciting of insurrection. The freedom of speech can create riot…freedom of speech can produce a Jim Jones that can lead thousands to their death; anything in this land that is touched by humanity can be exploited, but we can’t allow the presence of the wrong use of the good to cause us not to fight for the good and the right.”
Samuels was speaking at a Religious Liberty Congress hosted by the West Jamaica Conference in collaboration with the Jamaica Union and East Jamaica Conference on Sabbath, January 23, 2021, under the theme: “Religious Liberty and the Building of a Just Society”.
The re-known televangelist also reasoned that no race is superior to the other as God is Father of all and therefore we are all brothers–regardless of race.
“God’s Fatherhood, guarantees and articulates the brotherhood of all humanity,” he continued. “You cannot be a Christian, acknowledging God as your Father, and believe in racism and suppress the freedom of anybody else. No race has the right to boast over the other, because He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” he noted quoting from the Acts 17:26.
For Seventh-day Adventists, freedom of religion is biblically mandated and it is understood that God forces no one to worship Him. However, those who are able to worship freely, should never take advantage of that freedom
“If you are free to worship then worship because people have suffered for the freedom that many are now squandering,” said Dr. James Daniel, Vice President and Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) Director of the Inter-American Division of Seventh- day Adventists. “It is almost a crime against those who died to ensure that freedom of conscience and worship have been maintained.”
Daniel was one of two directors from the wider organization who presented at the Congress, the other was Dr. Ganoune Diop, PARL Director of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists who presented on Racism and the matter of the virtue of justice.
“No society can be just until the full humanity of every person is recognized, promoted and protected ”, Diop said. “A just society is one where the values of the people are taken into consideration. A just society is one where the infinite value of every person is affirmed and held as sacred. A righteous society is one in which we are all the time mindful that God loves every person that we encounter”.
According to Elder Nigel Coke, PARL Director at the Jamaica Union Conference, religious liberty concerns have been on the Church’s agenda ever since it was organized. He shared that though Seventh-day Adventists face difficulties in the Food and Beverage, Tourism, Business Processing and Outsourcing and Education sectors, we must still show gratitude for the freedom we are afforded.
“The Constitution of Jamaica guarantees us freedom of religion and worship and I am using this opportunity to thank successive governments for keeping the tenets of our Constitution in place”, said Coke.
“I am using this as a reminder and challenge to all Adventist members to be the best worker wherever you are employed. You should be the employee they do not want to lose.”
“Also, to our Adventist employers, both private and church organizations, please be remined that you have an obligation to respect the religious rights and day of worship of your employees who are not Sabbath keepers. The law is not just for us, it’s for everyone who has decided to have a belief and worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” he added.
During a panel discussion in the afternoon which had participation from the legal and industry fraternity, Pastor Jonathan Myrie, PARL Director of West Jamaica Conference, explained that the role of the department is to advocate for religious freedom for all people.
“Religious Liberty is at the heart of our humanity because God created us with the conscience to choose what to believe and what not to believe. That is a right that the Religious Liberty Department of the Church seeks to protect for all people of all faiths”, he said.
Pastor Everett Brown, President of Jamaica Union Conference and Elder Phillip Castell, PARL Director of East Jamaica Conference also joined the congress virtually in bringing greetings.
The Congress was aired live on Facebook, YouTube, Conferences and Union website, BLESS TV and WCCN Cable Television with more than 15,000 viewers on YouTube alone. It was Broadcast live from West Jamaica Conference headquarters in Mount Salem, Montego Bay.