Adventist Church Opens Religious Freedom Group in Jamaica
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has opened a Jamaican chapter of its International Religious Liberty Association, which defends the rights of all faiths, at a festival attended by senior government officials and thousands of other people in Kingston.
Leaders of the chapter, called the National Religious Liberty Association, said the group was needed because Jamaicans should not take their religious freedom for granted.
Religious freedom is on the minds of many Jamaicans after the government passed a flexible workweek law a few months ago that a number of religious organizations fear will not sufficiently protect their day of worship. The government, however, has insisted that the law is not a threat to religious freedom because it gives employees a 24-hour period to use as a day of worship.
The National Religious Liberty Association was launched recently during Jamaica’s first Festival of Religious Freedom at the National Arena before a crowd of thousands of Adventists and members from other denominations.
“Our mission is to protect, promote, and defend religious freedom of all and everywhere. It is now your mission,” John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association and religious liberty director of the Adventist world church, told attendees.
Robert Pickersgill, minister of water, land, environment, and climate change, who represented the prime minister, said the government recognized the “enormous impact” of religious freedom on Jamaica’s development and had enshrined the right in a 2011 amendment to the Jamaican constitution.
Parliament member Pearnel Charles, who represented opposition leader Andrew Holness, urged Christians to speak out against human injustice. “An attack on freedom anywhere is an attack on freedom everywhere,” he said.
Jamaica joins more than 80 countries worldwide with national religious liberty associations. Most recently Papua New Guinea opened its own association at a festival in December.
— Rhoma Tomlinson, Jamaica Union Conference