'Christians, be not afraid, be not angry, just let your light shine'

'Christians, be not afraid, be not angry, just let your light shine'

BY RENAE DIXON Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 08, 2013

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — The Jamaican minister who heads the powerful Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has advised Christians not to be angry or afraid if others do not share their beliefs.

Instead, Reverend Dr Neville Callam, general secretary and chief executive officer of the United Nations-recognised BWA, urged Christians to "show the truth through their lifestyles".

"We do not need to be angry; we do not need to be afraid, because the gospel we have is so powerful, and if Christians only let the light of Christ shine, many people who are disaffected will come to faith," he said.

Callam's reassurance comes at a time when Jamaican Christians have been embroiled in several controversial issues, such as the gay campaign for the repeal of the Buggery Act and calls for the abolition of abortion by pro-lifers.

Dr Callam and the BWA president, Rev Dr John Upton, were in Jamaica for its July 1-6, 2013 conference of the Alliance which was held this year at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in this tourist resort town. The BWA, which meets yearly in different countries, also hosted its five-yearly theological conference in the island from June 28 to 30.

Dr Callam, who is the first Jamaican and Caribbean national to hold a top position in that major international church organisation, suggested that each individual was created by God with a right to their own beliefs.

In an interview the the Jamaica Observer, he said that rather than be angry with people who think differently, Christians should "offer them the opportunity to see Christ through us".

"We respect the freedom of conscience and therefore we do not adopt a strategy of targeting people who are different from us in their beliefs and portray them to be less than human," he stated. "By the way we live, by the way we conduct ourselves, by acts of love we engage in, we want to try to show them the face of Christ, which we believe will be enough to convince them of what it is that they lack and perhaps what it is that they are searching for, as they try to find meaning in life," Dr Callam said.

Dr Upton, in agreeing with Callam, said that the BWA was unapologetic about its convictions. However, at the same time it was respectful to all persons. "We want to express God's love to all people...We are the fragrance of Christ," he said.

The BWA, which was established in 1905, will this year focus on the relationship between Christians and Muslim, which originated in the same part of the world — the Middle East — "to see how best Christians and Muslims can improve these relationships, looking at how do we learn to be good neighbours with one another while at the same time respecting our convictions". The decision stems from an October 2007 open letter from leaders of Islam to the Christians.

Where there are vast close existence of Baptist and Muslims, "there are efforts to engage in meaningful and respectful dialogue to assist relationships," Dr Callam said.

He said the group had also been in dialogue with other Christian communities in their bid to broaden the "oneness of Christ". It had been using its considerable influence to lobby for the release of several Christians who were arrested in Islamic nations under false accusations.

The group is also involved in world aid, assisting several nations, including Jamaica, who have been affected by disasters and in development projects.

Dr Upton gave as an example the building of an orphanage in Haiti for children who lost their parents in the massive earthquake.

Over 400 persons from 300 countries attended the conference for fellowship, praise and discussions.

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