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Jamaican Adventists Celebrate Religious Freedom

'Seventh-day Adventists in Jamaica are passionate about the cause of freedom,' says PARL leader

Adventist Church legislative affairs director Dwayne Leslie (center left) meets with Jamaica's Governor General, His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen (center right). Also pictured are Pastor Roberto Herrera (far left), PARL director for the Inter-America Division, and Nigel Coke (far right), PARL director for the Jamaican Union.  Seventh-day Adventists in Jamaica gave thanks January 28 for the ability to worship freely, and pledged themselves to continue their efforts to promote and protect this fundamental human right. A day-long rally, held at Dover Adventist Church in St. Mary to commemorate International Religious Freedom Day, drew a large crowd for a special worship service and afternoon panel discussion. The event was the finale of three days of activities coordinated by the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department of the Adventist Church in Jamaica.

“We must defend liberty and the right of each person to believe in God, to obey God’s commandments, and to not be obligated to have a religion determined by man’s laws which go against freedom of conscience,” said Pastor Roberto Herrera, PARL director for the church in Inter-America, who preached the Sabbath morning sermon.

Nigel Coke, PARL director for the Jamaican Union, noted that 2012 marks 50 years since Jamaican independence and that, throughout this time, successive governments have consistently upheld the constitutional right of citizens to worship freely. “We are enjoying what millions in the world are not and so we deem this a privilege,” he added.

Attorney Dwayne Leslie, legislative affairs director for the world church, was a special guest at the celebrations and presented a broad overview of current issues and challenges within the church’s worldwide religious liberty work. “Seventh-day Adventists in Jamaica are passionate about the cause of freedom,” he said, noting that the Sabbath afternoon panel discussion stretched on for more than 2-and-a-half hours as audience members became more and more engaged in the 'topic. “There’s realization that, although they live in a country that has long protected religious freedom, it’s a human right that can be as fragile as it is precious.”

In the days leading up to the Sabbath rally, the PARL leaders visited Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville and participated in island-wide radio and television interviews. On Friday, January 27, Mr. Leslie, Mr. Coke, and Pastor Herrera paid a courtesy visit to Jamaica’s Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen.

The January 28 rally was the first in a series of five events that are planned across Jamaica in the coming two years, culminating in a grand Religious Liberty Festival in April 2014 at the National Arena in Kingston, Jamaica.