July 13, 2005 - International Religious Liberty Leaders Express Vision for Next 5 Yrs
L to R: Dr Eugene Hsu (GC Vice-president and departmental advisor), Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, Dr. John Graz, Attorney James StandishThe 58th Session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted a clear mandate for the General Conference religious liberty team to continue their work on the frontlines of the battle for truth and religious liberty.
Leading the team for the next five years will be Dr. John Graz. “I’m honored to continue to serve this great message by promoting religious freedom both in the US and around the world,” Dr. Graz comments. “Religious liberty is not simply a sideline of our church. Rather, it is core to our mission and our understanding of the character of God. Ellen White put it this way ‘we are not doing the will of God if we sit quietly doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience.’ As Adventists, we know the vital importance of speaking up for freedom of belief and practice. As we see signs all around us, our sense of urgency has never been greater.”
Dr. Graz, a citizen of both Switzerland and France, and is a permanent resident of the United States. He earned his Master's Degree at the University of Montpellier and his Doctorate from the famed Sorbonne University in Paris. He was first elected leader of the General Conference religious liberty team in 1995 and also serves as secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association.
Over the last five years Dr. Graz has worked tirelessly with government and religious leaders around the world to protect believers from persecution and represent the gospel principle of freedom of conscience. His work has taken him to nations as diverse as Azerbaijan (where he worked to stop media attacks on Adventists), India (where he met with the current Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy), the violence ridden Indonesian province of Aceh (where he helped bring Christian and Muslim leaders together to discuss ways of stopping the religiously motivated killing), to Europe (where he spoke against law that discriminate against religious minorities).
Reelected to work with Dr. Graz are two associate directors; Attorney James Standish and Dr. Jonathan Gallagher. Attorney Standish represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the White House and U.S. Congress. He was born in Australia, grew-up in South-east Asia where his parents were missionaries, and attended Newbold College in England where he was first college newspaper editor and later student association president. James has an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, and earned his Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He is licensed to practice law in both Virginia and the District of Columbia.
"God blessed our team with a number of successes last term, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” Attorney Standish states. “Our goal for the next five years is to significantly expand our presence on Capitol Hill. Currently those working directly against our religious liberty vision are better organized, better funded and they have significantly better resources. We cannot let this state of affairs continue. Ellen White tells us that God has entrusted His 'banner of truth and religious liberty' to our church. It is our goal that His trust will be honored by developing a first rate religious liberty ministry on Capitol Hill that is second to no one. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been given a unique role to play in the history of this world. Under the grace of God, it is our intent to faithfully follow His plan."
Dr. Jonathan Gallagher serves as the United Nations Liaison director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In this role, he represents the Church and the International Religious Liberty Association at the United Nations assemblies in New York and Geneva and interfaces with ambassadors and staff at this and other high-level organizations. He worked as a local church pastor and church administrator in his native country of England for fifteen years. He holds a doctorate in divinity from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, a BA in History and Theology, while his first degree was in Chemistry as applied to space research. He is also the editor of academic journal, Fides et Libertas (Faith and Liberty), and secretary of the UN Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Committee on Religion or Belief. He is the author of more than a dozen books.
“Our major mission at the UN is to work for religious freedom and to counter the increasing trends towards intolerance,” Jonathan declares. “It’s vital that we speak and act at the UN and in other international venues to give a voice to the voiceless and witness for the God of freedom. Our aim is to make sure that no persecution goes unnoticed and that we call nations to account, demonstrating at the same time our Adventist values and principles to the watching world.”
The General Conference team works closely with religious liberty leaders in each of the thirteen world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In addition, they work closely with union religious liberty directors across the US and around the world and the editorial team at Liberty magazine to advance the gospel principle of liberty of conscience. [PARL News]