Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
Come January 24, 2015, all eyes will be on Jamaica. That is the sentiment expressed by The Seventh Day Adventist community, which will be hosting the first-ever Religious Liberty Festival at which they see all religious organisations and civic leaders coming together to celebrate freedom.
Pastor Glen Samuels, member of the organising team, told The Gleaner in an interview recently, that the event will be an avenue to thank past and present governments for their contribution in sustaining religious freedom over the years.
"We believe everyone should enjoy religious freedom, even those who do not share the same doctrine. The freedom to believe or not to believe without persecution is the right of every human being, and we are looking forward to that day I know this will get global attention," he declared.
"There are a number countries around the world who do not value freedom as it is valued here in Jamaica, and we are really giving God and our leaders thanks for the protection of religious freedom," Samuels told The Gleaner. He also said that the event will not prevent anyone from professing their beliefs.
"There are countries where the Islam faith is dominant, but they do not hesitate when it comes to killing Christians, but as a church we have to take an opposite view and protect the rights if every person," he said.
"One should not divorce religious freedom from our belief in God. As a Christian Church, we have no shame in saying that we believe in God, neither do we intend to stray from the Scriptures. However God made all of us free, and as result, each person should be allowed to worship God, according to the dictates of his own conscience," he declared.
President of the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, Reverend Conrad Pitkin, shared that they had some concerns initially, which he did not want to divulge. He however stressed that the right to worship should be the right of every person.
"I believe the timing right and that as a country we should continue to enjoy religious freedom. This goes beyond doctrine and specific religious beliefs. What we are saying is that persons should not be discriminated against simply because of their religion," he said.
"In Jamaica, we can go on the street side anytime. We have Christian stations and persons are not deprived of employment opportunities because of religion, so we have a lot to be grateful for," he charged.