East London Religious Liberty Day

27th September 2018

The first ever East London Religious Liberty Day of Fellowship took place at the Ilford Central Seventh-day Adventist church on Sabbath 22 September 2018 with guest speakers, Dr Brighton Kavaloh, a retired pastor and Mrs Gina Abbequaye, South England Conference Education director and Hyland House School head teacher. Dr Kavaloh addressed the government proposal to changes in the teaching of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) with notable changes being the inclusion of the diversity in relationships which reflect modern British life as well as the teaching of these lessons to primary school children.

The initial consultation was launched on 19 December 2017 with the deadline IMG-20180924-WA0014on 12 February 2018. 23,000 individuals responded to it with mixed results. This was due in part to concerns raised by members of the public, among them parents, young people and some from different faith groups, regarding the government proposals to bring changes to the teaching of SRE and PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) education.

Dr Kavaloh said, "Having taken into consideration the concerns raised, the government having gone back to the drawing board ‒ have now launched a new public consultation which will remain open until 7 November 2018. It is therefore important to respond thereby making your voices heard on issues which affect the education and religious liberty of your children."

'Addressing the Fundamental Values and Future of our Children' was Mrs Abbequaye's topic for her presentation. She explained the core fundamental British values needed to be taught in schools. These include: democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of those with different religions and beliefs. Taken at face value, these are attributes which are agreeable to most people. The problem is when these values pose a direct or even sometimes indirect challenge to the liberty of conscience and religious beliefs of an individual. "The law states that every child has a right to an education," said Mrs Abbequaye, who then added, "The purpose of the fundamental values is to teach children respect while also preparing them for modern life in Britain. The approach and philosophy of an Adventist education however, is to restore human beings into the image of God as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ."

Dr Kavaloh gave an engaging and powerful presentation specifically geared towards the children where they had to make the sounds of various animals such as sheep, wolves, snakes and doves before the authentic sounds they make were revealed. He told both adults and children that they are living in a society where Christ has admonished us to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves and that as sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd (Jesus) we are to be aware of the wolves which come to steal, kill and destroy lives.

The child of God, undergoing challenges to their identity and character based on their religious beliefs and convictions, is encouraged to remain calm and when necessary to be assertive without being aggressive. We are called to be ambassadors of God to everyone we meet, therefore we must represent Him well.

East London's first ever Religious Liberty Day of Fellowship proved to be a huge success with many attendees stating they were already looking forward to the next one.

[Darell J Philip]

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