Thank you and please be seated.
My respects to the President of the Bahamas Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention, the Reverend Dr. Philip McPhee, who is a childhood friend of mine – we have history together.
He became a Baptist and I an Anglican, but we share a common faith in the power and promise of a God through whom, we believe ALL things are possible.
Other Reverend gentlemen and ladies and especially the man of the hour, Rev. Dr. Ivan F. Butler, Senior Pastor at Kemp Road Ministries;
The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Michael Pintard;
Fellow Baptists and friends, good evening.
On behalf of the government and people of The Bahamas, I bring warm greetings to the leadership, officers and members of The Bahamas Baptist Missionary And Educational Convention on the occasion of CRUSADE 2024.
There is an ancient tradition within the Jewish faith – from which our faith emerged – which emphasizes the importance of always recording and telling the story of the Jewish people so that future generations will never forget where they came from.
In that powerful example of storytelling as a force to reinforce identity, culture and values, we recognise the need to tell our own stories.
In that spirit, I wish to pay tribute to the story and legacy of the Baptist movement in The Bahamas. This institution of faith has a strong and enduring legacy of liberation leadership that predates the abolition of slavery.
Historical research reveals that many of the founding fathers of the Baptist movement were former slaves. These liberated minds established the foundation the contemporary church is built on. So, at our core, ours is a faith founded within hardship that also enabled us to overcome those hardships – which is why our faith always shines brightest during hard times.
Whether men and women of God were preaching liberation from sin, oppression or inequality, our platform has always been one of righteousness and justice. In fact, these concepts are inherent to practive of our faith, as we see in the instances when the Good Book admonishes us to remove the yoke of oppression, to treat one another fairly and justly, and to be our brothers and sisters keepers.
These are ideals and principles that have stood the test of time.
The critical contributions of the church, and especially the Baptist movement, to the modern Bahamas must never be understated. As Baptists, you should never grow weary of telling your story and your truth. It is not just of importance to the Baptist community but to our history books, as well as the current socio-cultural fabric of our nation.
As you meet in crusade to prepare yourselves and your organization spiritually for the important work of administering the Gospel and uplifting our communities, I note the great need for the church and the government to work together in recognition of the reality that we exist at the intersection of many social issues in our nation that no single organization – not even the church or the government – can face alone. We all have a part to play and we all want to achieve the same objectives.
We both want to improve the lives of Bahamians.
We both are called to assist the widow, protect the vulnerable, empower the poor, heal the sick and shut in, and uphold justice and fairness.
More than ever before, unity is needed to address a cycle of violence and vengeance that are communities are currently facing. This violence has claimed the lives of many innocents: there are young men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are mothers, grandmothers, and children who have been taken away from their loved ones. And those who live with the physical and mental scars of survival.
The church has a signficant role to play in the healing of our nation as we work to address this recent surge in violent crime with great urgency.
As we continue to roll out saturation patrols in high crime areas and place every resource available into solving and preventing violent crimes, we are having discussions with stakeholders within our churches, our police force, our community organizations, our justice and rehabilitative systems, as well as the legislature.
I commend the Bahamas Christian Council for announcing a day of prayer, as an important part of our efforts, because we will never discount the power of faith to change lives. I call on all Bahamians who believe in the power of prayer to join us.
But I want to make it clear. A core tenet of our belief is that faith without works is dead.
So when we pray, it is not to be passive or suggest that we will sit around waiting for a solution to appear. Our prayers precede action.
We are rolling out a comprehensive plan to address the current violent crime surge.
And I appeal to all Bahamians to join us in adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward violence and criminality.
This government remains committed to a broad and intensive approach to holistically combating crime – from a law enforcement and legal perspective, as well as from a social outreach and reform perspective.
National security is priority number one. And no resource will be spared as we bring those who seek to destablize and terrorize our communities to justice.
The details of our crime-fighting and prevention measures will be fully laid out in my upcoming national address at 8 pm this evening.
I invite all Bahamians to tune in and learn about all that the government is doing to have an immediate impact on the current rate of murder and violent crime.
As a man of faith, I believe that good ultimately triumphs over evil. And I believe that there is no national issue too big for us to overcome.
We have fought too hard and too long to build this country only to allow a few lawless people destroy this beautiful nation that God has blessed us with.
I’m putting all those who seek to perpetuate the current cycle of violent crime and murder on notice: you will be met with force.
You will not evade justice. The law-abiding citizens of this nation will prevail.
And I encourage all young people who may see drugs and gangs as an avenue to financial stability and camraderies to reconsider their current outlook before it is too late.
There are still people and organizations out there that care and will support you if you are open to it.
In keeping with today’s theme, “AN OPEN DOOR”, I thank the church for keeping an open door to our young people.
You are on the frontlines tending to the brokenhearted, and, if not for your efforts, things could be even worse.
The church has always been the moral conscience of our nation. While we are a land of many faiths and walks of life, within our faith is a universally powerful message of peace, love, and hope that, if fully embraced, would benefit our entire society.
For almost ninety years, The Bahamas Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention has stood firmly on these foundational moral values powered by a message of eternal and unconditional love.
I encourage President McPhee to continue to do the Lord’s work. Whether we’re talking about evangelism, community outreach, advocacy, leadership, or education. Continue to walk your path of positivity and love that has helped to shape our nation’s development.
And I implore this convention to continue in your faithfulness and obedience to the divine decree – The Great Commission long after CRUSADE 2024 has ended. Continue the good works of preaching the gospel, bringing hope to the downtrodden, assisting the poor, strengthening the weak, healing the sick, ministering to the shut-in, protecting the widow and comforting the brokenhearted.
I wish The Bahamas Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention every success during CRUSADE 2024. May your discussions and exchange of ideas lead to positive development for your organization and our nation.
On behalf of my wife, Ann-Marie, the Deputy Prime Minister I. Chester Cooper and Mrs. Cooper, the government and people of The Bahamas, I congratulate The Bahamas Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention on the occasion of CRUSADE 2024.
May Almighty God continue to bestow His richest blessings on our nation.