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Pastors agree that parts of Coalition statement against mandatory vaccination left much to be desired, PM says

Pastors agree that parts of Coalition statement against mandatory vaccination left much to be desired, PM says
Left to Right: Pastor Dermoth Baptiste & Pastor Stephen Ollivierre

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Two constituent leaders of a Coalition of local churches have apparently agreed with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves that their recent statement the group expressed its disapproval of mandatory vaccination, could have been drafted differently. 

The Coalition’s statement was circulated to media houses via e-mail last Thursday by Elvin Peters, secretary of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies of St Vincent and the Grenadines (PAWI SVG).

To date, the members of the “Coalition of churches and concerned Assemblies” have not been disclosed. 

But the prime minister said in a letter circulated last week that he met with two constituent leaders, Pastor Steven Ollivierre of PAWI and Pastor Dermoth Baptiste of the Seventh Day Adventists on November 15 at his office to discuss the statement. 

“Pastors Stephen and Dermoth spoke to the issues which prompted the Coalition’s statement and conceded that in some vital areas the drafting left much to be desired. In particular, they accepted that an unequivocal stance in favour of vaccination against COVID, as their own respective churches had hitherto articulated, ought to have been included in the Coalition’s statement,” the prime minister said. 

“They conceded, too, that the Coalition’s statement on the matter of “individual conscience” lacked completeness and ought to have reflected the connectedness between “conscience” and community solidarity as exemplified in the Christian teaching of “love thy neighbour”.  They appreciated the God-ascribed role of government in regulating conduct in the interest of public health especially at the time of a pandemic.” 

According to Gonsalves’ release, the pastors also regretted the Coalition’s description of the government’s regulatory stance as “Un-Christ like” and they considered that “it was a loose, unhelpful, and incorrect formulation; they emphasised that they held the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in high regard”.

The SR&O No. 28 of 2021 came into effect last Friday where certain workers are required to take a COVID-19 vaccine in order to keep their job. 

The prime minister said he explained the history, context and circumstances of the COVID pandemic, the philosophical and practical underpinnings of the government’s approach to dealing with COVID, and the nature and purpose of the SR&O. 

“Pastors Stephen and Dermoth expressed appreciation for the explanations; they opined that had there been such a discussion prior to the drafting of the Coalition’s statement, its formulation and focus would have been different, for the better. I accepted the honesty and frankness of Pastors Stephen and Dermoth; I thanked them for their Christian work and fellowship,” he said. 

“All of us expressed our deep and abiding concerns about our people and their welfare, including their health and that of the nation.  We pledged to continue to work together, in greater understanding, for our people’s upliftment in these challenging and complicated times. 

Both Pastors Stephen and Dermoth prayed with the Cabinet Secretary and me at the end of the meeting.  It was a good and promising meeting.”

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