"We wish to free, not to enslave; to trade, not to steal; to enlighten and learn, not to dominate and convert. ... Our moral standing is directly tied to our ability to maintain America's preeminent leadership in the world,” declared McCain.
McCain's remarks were the keynote of the fourth annual religious liberty dinner sponsored by the IRLA, NARLA and Libertymagazine; each has been held in the historic Senate Caucus Room on Capitol Hill, where some of America's most important hearings have taken place. Last year Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker.
“It's no surprise that the many Seventh-day Adventists here tonight seek the freedom to practice their faith -- after all, Adventists have often faced serious discrimination around the world,” McCain said. “What is remarkable, what is truly impressive about your work, is that you seek freedom not just for people of your faith, but also for those of all other religions. Your work on behalf of religious freedom and human rights is vital, it is transforming, and it is inspiring. And for it, the world owes you a deep debt of gratitude.”
Along with Adventist religious liberty activists were representatives of other faiths, including Islamic, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant groups, as well as Congressional staffers.
According to John Graz, public affairs and religious liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist world church and secretary-general of the IRLA, the annual dinner has taken on a measure of importance as a valuable human rights forum.
Also speaking at the event was U.S. Representative Roscoe Bartlett, of Maryland, a Seventh-day Adventist who was honored for his religious freedom efforts. Several individuals who have helped in religious liberty issues were also honored with awards: Nathaniel Higgs, retiring public affairs and religious liberty director for the Southern Union of Seventh-day Adventists; Robert Nixon, recently retired vice president of the IRLA; attorney Jeffrey A. Berman of Sidley Austin LLP; and Professor W. Cole Durham, an attorney and law professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
A special presentation of the A.T. Jones medal was made to California flight attendant Deborah Fountain, who lost her job with a major airline because of her refusal to work on Sabbath. She regained the position when the airline agreed to accommodate her needs. —Adventist News Network/AR
Claude Harris II, chairperson of the Black Adventist Youth Directors Association (BAYDA), the parent organization of the United Youth Congress, and director of youth ministries for the Adventist church's Allegheny East Conference, explained the theme. “‘No More Chains’ refers to things that can hold youth back from a full relationship with Christ. The purpose for the United Youth Congress is to increase awareness of the needs of youth within our community and to equip them with the tools to break the shackles that stifle their potential,” he said.
Held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, organizers report that along with the 5,200 registered delegates more than 38,000 non-delegates gathered for the Sabbath services on April 23. Some estimates placed the total attendance at more than 50,000.
More than 30 workshops covered a wide variety of topics including single parenting, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS awareness, employment, family and spiritual decline, gangs, homelessness, community and financial empowerment and sexual promiscuity. Also included this year were outreach projects into the Atlanta community to build on what the youth were learning in the seminars. A total of 14 projects ranging from feeding the homeless to constructing an outdoor garden complete with a mural at a local nursing home gave youth the opportunity to put their faith into action.
The Congress ended with a mega Gospel and concert choir festival. Adventist youth choirs from Dallas, Texas, Berrien Springs and Detroit, Michigan won cash prizes for their performances. Following the parade and rally, 30 young people were baptized into the Adventist church.
—Adventist News Network/AR
Hagele has served as the associate vice president for finance in Mid-America for the past five years. Previously she was an auditor for the General Conference Auditing Service, stationed both in North America and overseas. She is trained as a Certified Public Accountant. Hagele replaces G. Thomas Evans, who recently moved to the Southern Union as vice president for finance.
—Mid-America Union Communication Department/AR