MONTEGO BAY, St James — Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lloyd B Smith, says religious liberty is worth dying for, arguing that the greatest threat to religious freedom is taking it for granted.
“We ought never to take our religious liberty for granted. It is something that we must even be prepared to die for, because Jesus died for us and we must therefore be willing to make that ultimate sacrifice if it means that we must be free to serve our Lord and Savior,” said Smith, who is also Member of Parliament for Central St James.
He was addressing Seventh-Day Adventists at the West Jamaica Conference Centre in Montego Bay, recently, at their Religious Liberty Festival held under the theme “Protecting our Rights, while preparing for the Conflict.”
Smith reminded the gathering to be thankful for the liberties now enjoyed, which have been made possible by those who have gone on before.
“Even as we gather here today, let us remind ourselves that the liberty that we enjoy today in this auditorium did not come easily. It was through blood, sweat and tears that we today can sit here and enjoy religious freedom... Let us be mindful of that, let us give thanks for that!” he said.
And, in his presentation to the gathering, Opposition Spokesman on the Environment and Climate Change and Member of Parliament for North Western St James, Dr Horace Chang, said true freedom is derived from one single act, the death of Christ to free humanity from the bondage of sin in all its forms.
According to Chang, religious freedom is fundamental to all other freedoms that have been fought for through the years, adding that Christians have been at the forefront in the struggle against slavery, apartheid and the fight for justice.
He pointed out that many struggles for rights and freedom continue in Jamaica, but the church can take credit for some of the advances the country has made in certain regards.
“Here in Jamaica today, much of that struggle continues although we do not see it in the same context. The fight for freedom from poverty, the struggle for justice and in many cases, the churches and in particular the Seventh-Day Adventist church, can take pleasure and comfort and pride that it has been at the forefront of the struggle for improved education,” said Dr Chang.
Communications director at Jamaica Union of Seventh-Day Adventists, Nigel Coke, welcomed the tabling of the Ministry document to amend legislation to facilitate the long awaited Flexible Work Arrangements, which forms part of the Labour Market Reform process.
“We welcome the tabling of the Ministry document on Flexi-week, which states that employers will not be allowed to unilaterally change the contracts of employees when flexible work arrangements are implemented,” said Coke, who is also the organisation's director of public affairs and religious liberty.
“The parliamentary paper states … 'Employers must recognise and accept that the worker will have to be free to negotiate his/her days and hours of work, as changing the hours/day of work will in most instances involve a variation of the employment contract,' ” Coke said.
Several organisations in St James were recognised at the function for allowing Adventists in their employ to observe the Sabbath.