Churches Upset Over Sunday 10th Parade
Tonight, the government and the Belize Council of Churches are at odds over the decision to have the Tenth Parade on a Sunday. Yesterday, the churches issued a release stating that the parade’s schedule and its route are unacceptable because Sunday is a day of worship for the churches. The council claims that the parade will affect their services and will deny their members, and their families, the opportunity to worship peacefully. The organization said it was never consulted and felt disrespected by the decision. However, Minister of Culture and the Chairman of the National Celebrations Committee, Francis Fonseca, says the churches never raised any concerns, and believes it is being a bit unreasonable.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “We have an open door policy with them. They did not speak to us, they did not come to the commission and say we have this concern. They put out a release. I got the release from the media. So you know, I think that’s troubling. The other point of course is that as everyone knows, the citizens’ parade on the 10th is really organized and planned by the Loyal Patriotic Order of the Baymen. That’s a group that’s been around for many, many years. So they plan and organize the 10th we simply put it in our calendar of events. The parade, they plan the parade. So, you know, and they have insisted on maintaining the integrity of the 10th that’s something important for them. You know, we consulted with them. I can report to you that we consulted with them again today and their position is that they want to proceed with the citizens parade on the 10th despite the fact that they have heard and listened to and respect the concerns of the Church and we do as well. The National Celebrations Commission we understand the position of the Church. But we believe that the parade as the patriotic group has said can be done as they do every year in a very respectful celebratory manner that will not interfere at all with church services. But in my view it’s a little unreasonable especially coming so late in the calendar. We have planned this event for many, many months. The police have a plan in place for over a month, logistics in terms of who will work on that day and all these sorts of things. So it’s very unreasonable to come so late and as I said before, you know, the Council of Churches we have a Minister of Religious Affairs I asked him if the Council of Churches had reached out to him he said no, they did not reach out to me as the Chairman of the National Celebrations Commission they simply put out a release when they know that we are accessible and available to them if they wanted to discuss this matter.”
While Fonseca stated that it wasn’t GOB’s decision, Senator for the Council of Churches, Bishop Moses Alvin Benguche, says the government knew. Senator Benguche explained that while it is too late for the parade to be rescheduled, the churches feel it was important to express their discontent.
Bishop Alvin Benguche, The Methodist Bishop: “As I said, we have had a tradition in this country and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m almost certain I’m right, that where the holiday falls on a Sunday it is celebrated on the next day. And so we as a church would have taken it, that it was expected that those things that we would be a part of insofar as the celebration, such as the ecumenical worship which we will carry through – would have been that which we will do on a Sunday. But the heavy partying part of it would have been left for the following day. And so we knew that. But traditionally speaking, and let us be mindful of that, that we have always where it falls on a Sunday or on a sacred day that then the next day would be that day for celebration. And so that is not hard to understand and that is not hard to answer. There are times when I believe that culture and history can help us but we have to also be careful that it doesn’t serve to strangulate us. It doesn’t serve to divide us. I want to believe that these national holidays, cultural holidays, and everything else is something that should bring us together as one. It ought not to divide us. And that is my concern going forward. So it doesn’t matter to me whatever the name of the organization is. The government should have been aware. They should have been aware of what the tradition is, and perhaps as far as the church is concerned we should have carried through with that tradition as we have done in the past. I would hope that though there will be no change that the organizing body throughout the nation not only in Belize City but throughout the towns and villages will be respectful of the day of worship for churches.”
Bishop Benguche added that he hopes that there will not be a similar occurrence in the future.