|The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Belize closed all 25 of its schools last Friday to demonstrate against escalating alleged police violence in the country, most recently the killing of a church member. Teddy R. Murillo Jr was reported shot to death early on 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.
Hundreds of mourners pay respect to Teddy A. Murillo Jr, a young Seventh-day Adventist shot to death February 27 in Belize City. The church closed its 25 schools nationwide to protest what its leaders say is escalating police violence in the country. [photo: Abilio Cima/IAD]
A 19-year-old Adventist woman, murdered several years ago, was the first, Cima said, adding that there are 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 witness because their lives are at risk," Cima said.
"By closing our schools we wanted to show the community at large that we are a people 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 last Sunday, 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 over 34,000 members worshipping in 76 churches and congregations.