10-03-06: Adventists Reaffirm Commitment to Religious Liberty - 25th Anniversary of UN Declaration
October 3, 2006 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States .... [PARL/ANN Staff]
This week, representatives of the United Nations' (U.N.) Non-Governmental Organizations, among them Seventh-day Adventist delegates, are expected to hold a conference marking the 25th anniversary of the 1981 "Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief," reaffirming the organization's commitment to religious liberty and human dignity around the world.
Though the actual anniversary falls on Nov. 25, due to the Thanksgiving holiday widely celebrated in the United States, representatives are anticipated to commemorate the Declaration on Oct. 5, at U.N. headquarters in New York.
The anniversary comes at a time when, despite decades of ostensible freedom to believe and worship as conscience dictates, many nations still deny this basic right to their citizens, who continue to face discrimination, hatred, and violence for their beliefs.
According to the church's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) department, hundreds of thousands of such citizens remain on official government suspicion lists and, in some cases, may face the death penalty for converting from a state-sanctioned religion to one of their choosing.
For more than a century, the Seventh-day Adventist church has actively promoted religious freedom and supports the commitment formalized by the secular world with the 1981 U.N. Declaration.
Since then, the Declaration has served as the main reference point used in the fight to end discrimination and intolerance based on belief. "It gives explicit protections not found in other documents," says associate PARL director Jonathan Gallagher, who has cited the Declaration while petitioning for religious considerations. Gallagher also notes that the Declaration's wording has been borrowed for various constitutions and other significant documents.
Of special interest to Adventists, as well as various Jewish groups and other Sabbatarians, was the Declaration's endorsing of the right to "days of rest...in accordance with the precepts of one's religion," which Bert B. Beach, former world church PARL director, points out made significant strides toward ensuring full religious liberty. This endorsement was included in the Declaration due in large part to the work of Gianfranco Rossi, former Adventist representative to the U.N.'s Geneva office.
It's "a no-brainer," then, that Adventists "wholeheartedly support the 25th anniversary conference marking this vital declaration," says Jonathan Gallagher, associate PARL director. "[Adventists] trust that not only will the anniversary be remembered, but also the fundamental provisions for free religious expression and mutual respect between believers of different faiths," he adds.
A statement,* drafted by the World Affairs Committee at the Adventist church headquarters and released today by PARL, notes that because the 1981 Declaration explicitly spells out those provisions--"free association for worship, the right to disseminate beliefs, the ability to receive voluntary funding, the opportunity to educate and train, and most importantly, the right to follow the dictates of conscience in changing one's religion--Adventists will continue to support these vital principles that lead to security within society and mutual respect between those of differing beliefs."
Gallagher, who also serves as the church's U.N. Liaison, will deliver the statement during the anniversary celebration. Expressing the church's support of the Declaration, it concludes, "the Adventist Church is fully committed to promote, defend, and protect religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. To that end, the church will continue to cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights bodies, other international agencies, and organizations of religion or belief, to encourage every nation to implement the fundamental right of religious freedom."
*The complete official church statement can be accessed at http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/statements/un-religious-tolerance.html
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