“AND He said to them, “What man will there be among you, who will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and will raise it up?” Matthew 12:11
The role of religion in civilization and human development will always be critical to achieving what can be considered a reasonable standard of living. Equity, justice, respect and appreciation are all civilization concepts associated with Christianity and human rights.
One of the key elements of the modern approach to education is inclusion, an ideology that dictates acceptance of all regardless of religious beliefs, cultural differences or social preferences. Theoretically, we pledge to unite the people of the world through the very characteristics that separate them by gaining an understanding of how and why we differ and then becoming respectful and appreciative of our differences.
However, theory and reality sometimes fail in synchronization as in the current conflict between some church leaders and the organizers of school sports. The letter being circulated by the Saint Lucia Mission of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is testimony to the fact that we sometimes fail to “practice what we preach”.
The decision to move the final day of the Inter-Schools Track and Field Championship to Saturday is experimental in nature but, more importantly, aimed at facilitating greater family involvement in the meet. My immediate reaction to the change was to question the choice of Saturday, bearing in mind that the Sabbath worshippers of this period would most likely not participate in the activity.
However, when the organizing committee outlined the reasons for the choice of Saturday and further explained that the following year the experiment would then examine the use of a Sunday, my reservations were cancelled since, in my opinion, there was justification for the decision.
Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate what has transpired and, in my opinion, is contrary to the principles of religion, sport and education. The letter which I received bearing the signature of one Pastor Quigley Morris and on a letterhead of the Seventh-Day Adventist Mission of Saint Lucia, says “We are not surprised by the disrespect of God’s Sabbath and His People” and further requests that “our young people, especially our high school students, to stay away from the sports meet.”
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has every right to request a possible change of date based on their religious beliefs and how this would impact their population but for me there are two issues that warrant serious cause for concern.
They refer to the decision made to use the Saturday as “not surprising and disrespectful” and appealed to young people to boycott the meet.
The responsibility of leaders, church or otherwise, is to act in a manner that is consistent with the rule of law, observance of human rights and respect for all who dwell in the society. The organizers of school sports have been very respectful of all religious preferences and have been very considerate in the scheduling of events, which sometimes are detrimental to the objectives of school sports.
The compromising nature of the Ministry has for years forced school sports to traverse a meandering trail of few meaningful accomplishments and into a state of developmental stagnation. The Massy United Insurance Cricket Final in Choiseul two years ago finally achieved the spectatorship worthy of the sponsor’s investment and the hard work of the youngsters. It was played on a Saturday for the first time! The comments in the letter from the church leader are as much an infringement on the rights of the organizers of school sports as the claims made against the Adventist community.
I have always been told that communicating in a state of anger or anguish can further exacerbate the conflict and so it is in a state of calm that I urge the leaders of the Adventist Church to be more sociable and professional in their approach to this matter. Continue to dialogue and remember if it is the will of God, then so be it. We must never allow religion and education to contradict each other.