10th May 2019
Hackney held its Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Emphasis Day to a packed congregation on Sabbath 27th April 2019. Invited were guest speakers from Advent RLP – a body who provide critical Religio-Legal analysis on current events and legislature that impact on religious freedom for all people in the United Kingdom and Europe.
In his presentation of the lesson study – When Alone – Hackney’s Minister – Pastor Joojo Bonnie – gave some practical tips on how to build healthy relationships firstly with God and then with others. He said: “Whatever status we find ourselves in (married, widowed, single) God wants us to be happy and in healthy relationships. He created us to be in relationship (partnership) with Him first and from creation it has always been His desire for man to not be alone.” When touching upon the subject of death, Pastor Bonnie said: “God has given us the hope, through the resurrection of His Son – Jesus Christ – of one day being reunited with all our loved ones again.”
Sabbath School guest speaker, Gina Abbequaye, addressed the subject of Fundamental British Values and Faith Schools. Mrs. Abbequaye, who is the SEC Education Director and Head teacher for Hyland House School shared some of the issues which are impacting upon schools at government level. She said: “The government’s Fundamental British Values focus on four areas: Democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. Taken at face value, there are no issues in teaching these in schools. Issues tend to only arise where there are direct or in some cases indirect conflicts of interest relating to the religious belief and liberty of those who follow a particular faith based religion.”
More than 11,000 individuals responded to a government proposal which would introduce the teaching of Sex and Relationship Education lessons to children as young as 5 years old, with 58% of the respondents saying that the proposal was not age-appropriate. While there are other current issues arising such as the right for young people to consider gender reassignment, Mrs. Abbequaye reminded the church of God’s biblical plan for humankind. “The aim of true education is to restore human beings into the image of God. Children are created in the image of God. Therefore, the home, school and church are to cooperate with the divine agencies in preparing children for a life of eternity.”
In his sermon entitled God and Caesar: Truth and Deception – A welcome challenge and opportunity, Dr. Brighton G. Kavaloh challenged the church to take the issue of religious liberty very seriously. He encouraged the church to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God. “The question of religious liberty is very important and should be handled with great wisdom and discretion.
Jesus Himself handled issues of truth and deception with great wisdom and discretion. Therefore, the burden of our message should be based on the keeping of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” he said.
In the afternoon, Citizen and Advice Bureau Officer, Sonia Munroe, focused on Religion and Belief in the Workplace. She educated members on no.6 of the Human Rights Act (1998) which states an individual’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to practice that belief. Sonia, an Elder in the Tottenham West Green Road SDA Church also spoke about the protected characteristics to be found in the Equality Act (2010) which are: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Sonia shared a number of different cases where individuals were unfairly discriminated against on the basis of their religious liberty and faith including an ongoing case in America where an individual is on trial for his refusal to work on the Sabbath.
The programme came to conclusion with a highly engaging Q&A session where church members were given the opportunity to further discuss and explore the issues which were highlighted throughout the day.
[Darell J Philip]