“Don’t Take Religious freedom for Granted:” Caribbean Activists Urge Action
Attorney Barry Bussey addresses delegates
Raising the banner of freedom in the streets of St George’s
The challenge of defending religious freedom from emerging threats was the focus of a three-day event in St. George’s, Grenada, which brought together more than 100 delegates from around the region. Speakers at the conference, sponsored by the Caribbean Religious Liberty Association (CARLA), warned there was no room for complacency in the ongoing struggle to preserve this fundamental, yet fragile, human right.
“What you enjoy today was not always there,” said Peter David, Minister of Tourism for Grenada. “Don’t take religious freedom for granted. Pay tribute to those who have struggled for freedom.” He challenged delegates to let their voices be heard more clearly on current issues, and he cited growing international pressure for countries to be more accommodating toward issues of sexual orientation and the death penalty. “These will be on the front burner in the coming days,” he said. “You must discuss this and assist the government in determining how these matters are addressed.”
Dr. Eugene Daniel, president of the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, reminded delegates that freedom does not take care of itself. Quoting Ellen White, he said, “We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude doing nothing to preserve the liberty of conscience.”
Attorney Barry Bussey, director of United Nations Relations for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, says the meetings drew representatives from a range of faith communities. And yet, he says, the conference was remarkable for its spirit of mutual respect and unity of purpose. He addressed the delegates on Sabbath morning, urging them to be “faithful, prayerful warriors for the Lord,” willing to be advocates for right, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
Bussey says the event provided an invaluable forum for delegates to exchange ideas and develop new strategies for raising public awareness about religious liberty issues.
The conference ended with a public celebration of the religious freedom enjoyed in Grenada. Delegates were joined by a Pathfinder drum corps and some 500 local Seventh-day Adventist Church members for a parade through the streets of the capital, St. George’s.
The Grenada event, held January 20 to 23, marks the sixth annual conference of the Caribbean Religious Liberty Association, which is one of thirteen chapters of the International Religious Liberty Association.