News Release

Barbados Participates in First Caribbean Religious Freedom Symposium

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped plan and participate in the first Caribbean Religious Freedom Symposium, held in Santo Domingo from 15-17 November, 2017. The symposium, which focused on the theme “Religious Freedom and Economic Development”, was hosted by the Pontifical Catholic University, and sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS), the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), Latin American Consortium of Religious Freedom, and the Chamber of Deputies of the Dominican Republic.

Local LDS leaders in the region submitted candidates who were leaders in academic, business, religious or government communities with significant interest and influence in the topic of religious freedom and economic development. Representatives from 15 Caribbean nations attended the symposium, including the vice president of the Dominican Republic, H. E. Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández and the first lady of Guyana, H.E. Mrs. Sandra Marie Granger.
To represent Barbados, Church leaders in Barbados selected Suleiman Bulbulia, Muslim Chaplin at UWI Cave Hill campus and Secretary for the Barbados Muslim Association. Barbados District President Stuart Sampson said about the selection process, “When I saw his name come forward I knew he would be a good fit for what we were looking for. He is dedicated to faith in Islam but I also know from speaking with him that he listens and appreciates others' point of view as well. This, coupled with the fact that he had experience with a forum such as this and being part of the interfaith council, it just seemed to me like revelation had produced a perfect match.”
As the only representative of a non-Christian religion selected to attend the symposium, Mr. Bulbulia provided a unique point of view. “I felt it could be more multi-faith, they had Christian denominations and they had me. But Jews, Hindus, they make up a good section of the Caribbean as well, that could be expanded on…. When I got an idea of what (the symposium) really was, I was pleased because I think we ought to have this. And to know they have this regularly in different parts of the world. I think there is a big one in Salt Lake City and they do host Muslims there at that one, which is fantastic! Religions generally are under the microscope and I think people by and large are moving away from religion.”
Ten sessions consisting primarily of workshops and panel discussions during the two-day symposium covered relevant topics including “Religious Freedom as a Fundamental Human Right”, “The Role of State in Protecting Religious Freedom”, “The Interrelation of Freedom of Speech, Press, and Religion” and “Law Education as a Platform for Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief.” Mr. Bulbulia participated on a panel titled “Contribution of Religion and the Fundamental Role of Religious Freedom in Society”. When asked about his experience as a panelist he responded, “I talked about the need for religions to get together and start communicating with each other. An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths, and we should look at it from that point of view.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook, Apostle for the LDS Church, was also a panelist in the same session with Mr. Bulbulia and expressed similar desires regarding the protection of religious freedom. “My purpose today is to review the progression of some basic principles that have established religious liberty as part of essential or inalienable rights. The fundamental right of each individual to live according to his or her faith and beliefs, and as a corollary to protect the religious institutions that provide the essential framework for the promulgation of faith and belief. In addition, my challenge is that people of faith need to work together to improve the moral fabric of nations and to protect religious freedom.”
One of the purposes of the event was to teach leaders how they can protect religious freedom and promote economic development within their spheres of influence. Another goal was to foster networking among the attendees and give them an opportunity to create or strengthen strategic relationships.  Mr. Bulbulia hopes to reestablish an Inter-Religious Organization in Barbados. In his words, “Anywhere we find common ground, we should work together. I’m not saying that you need to worship like me or I need to worship like you, but we need to find common things where the wider society can benefit from our getting together.” He will also address religious tolerance in his weekly newspaper column.
Local LDS leaders and their congregations are also eager to help foster this spirit of religious tolerance and cooperation in Barbados and throughout the Caribbean.  

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