The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica has implored political candidates to choose their words carefully in upcoming national elections.
The Adventist Church is the single largest denomination on the Caribbean island-nation, and its leaders have joined representatives of other faiths in calling for calm after previous election campaigns turned violent. In recent years, violence has diminished during election season but campaign rhetoric from opposing candidates has increased.
“The administration of the union calls upon all our political leaders to keep the campaign rhetoric clear from personal attack,” said Everett Brown, newly re-elected president of the Jamaican Union Conference.
He cautioned that personal attacks fuel “unethical tensions and embarrassing dispositions between opponents” that can boil over into physical violence and even death.
“Let us not be weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Brown said at a dedication service for newly elected officers and directors of the Jamaican Union Conference at the Mandeville Adventist Church. Among those in the audience was Jamaica’s national security minister, Peter Bunting, and national parliament member Audley Shaw.
After re-affirming the church’s commitment to God, the preaching of the gospel, and nation building, Brown offered a reminder of the Adventist world church’s official stance of not supporting any political party, candidate, or activity.
“It is the right of our members as citizens to exercise their franchise and vote for the candidates of their choice, but the church will not publicly or privately endorse any political party or support partisan political activities,” he said.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the single largest denomination in Jamaica, accounting for more that 300,000 people in a population of 2.8 million, according to the most recent national census.
The date of the general elections has yet to be set. But campaigning is starting for the vote, which by law much be held from Dec. 29, 2016, to April 16, 2017.
Brown, speaking Jan. 3, said his union administration’s belief that it has a mandate to lead people to Jesus’ saving grace was not negotiable, but at the same time church members could not ignore social issues that threatened the country.
“The murders and murder rate are alarming and concern all of us,” he said.
Furthermore, he said, too many children are abused, raised in dysfunctional homes and communities, don’t attend school, and have gone missing.
“Must we not go the extra mile in securing, planning for, and helping our children maximize their full potential toward a better country and a brighter world?” he said.
“The church is ready to be a part of the solution,” he said. “Let us do more managerially and sacrificially to make tertiary education more accessible to our people.”