Netherlands Antilles: Religious Freedom Association Launched

News February 2004

Daniel Duffis and Julio Palacio (seated) listen to Mario Nino present.

Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles… The Netherlands Antilles Religious Liberty Association was launched on January 31 at a special meeting in the main town, Willemsted. 

Though religious freedom is very much a part of the heritage of the islands, it’s recognized that there are increasing problems, worldwide and local. Religious freedom issues are developing in regard to enforcing Sunday observance and other concerns, and due to the initiative of religious leaders such as Pastor Daniel Duffis, the new association has now been launched.

The IRLA is encouraging formation of local religious liberty associations (RLAs) as affiliates of IRLA. The IRLA works as the “umbrella” body to represent the national and regional RLAs to the wider international scene, such as the United Nations.

The newly-elected president of Netherlands Antilles RLA is Errol Maduro, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. He comments, “Religious freedom is a great part of what makes a human being. Here in Curacao we have had religious liberty since the sixteenth century, but because we have not had to fight for it—we have had it as a gift—it is not in the consciousness of the people. We have to make people understand that this is very important.”

The Netherlands Antilles Religious Liberty Association team; president Errol Maduro, far left.

Julio Palacio, representing the nearby Venezuela RLA added that “We need to maintain high values and principles—and everyone has the right that these should be respected, along with freedom of conscience. Netherlands-Antilles RLA comes to fill in this gap so that freedom of conscience can be respected. It doesn’t matter what religious faith we profess. We believe that through the RLA this will be effected. RL is important everywhere , not just here in Curacao. We need to educate the people and anticipate the problems of tomorrow, fight to keep the doors open, so that we can freely express our consciences.”

Main local organizer Daniel Duffis stated that “Discussions about Sunday laws are happening in the country now, and we need a national movement to help people understand what this means for religious freedom. This is for all people of all faiths here in Curacao.”

Mario Nino of the IRLA’s regional office in Miami, Florida affirmed the practical nature of the work facing all such associations. “The main challenge in this region is that many countries provide for religious freedom in their constitutions, but in reality in a practical way, we don’t have it! So we need to work with governments, universities, and religious denominations to have a united effort for religious freedom for all. The new RLA is a good thing here—I believe it will give strong support for our religious liberty program.”

The IRLA was represented at the meetings in Curacao by its deputy general secretary, Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, who will submit the new association’s request to become an IRLA affiliate to the IRLA board.