Belize’s Adventist Schools
Close to Protest Violence
BY LIBNA STEVENS, Inter-America Division
he Seventh-day Adventist Church in Belize closed all 25 of its schools on March 5, 2010, to demonstrate against alleged violence on the part of police in the country, that resulted in the death of a church member.
Teddy R. Murillo, Jr., was reportedly shot to death early Saturday, February 27, by a law enforcement officer who was questioned and later released.
Murillo, 21, was a member of the Mount Zion Adventist Tabernacle in Belize City--the first church established in the city. He was an active member of his church’s youth group and served as a church deacon.
Murillo is the second Adventist to fall victim to alleged police violence in recent years, according to Abilio Cima, executive secretary and communication director for the church in Belize.
A 19-year-old Adventist woman, murdered several years ago, was the first, Cima said, adding two other cases were reported in recent years. One case is still in the courts, and the other was dismissed due to lack of witnesses, he said.
“People are afraid to testify [in court] because their lives are at risk,” Cima said.
“By closing our schools we wanted to show the community at large that we are against violence,” Cima said, adding that the Adventist Church is calling on the national government “to do something urgently to stop crime and violence.”
Hundreds of mourners crowded the Mount Zion Adventist Tabernacle on March 7 for a memorial service for Murillo, broadcast live on a local television station.
Murillo attended James Garbutt Adventist Primary School, Canaan Adventist High School and was a freshman at the University of Belize, pursuing an associate’s degree in agriculture, at the time of his death.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the second largest church in Belize with more than 34,000 members worshipping in 76 churches and congregations.