March 1, 2007

Paul Ratsara's Welcome to the Congress Delegates

capWe would like to thank and congratulate International Religious Liberty Association for choosing the continent of Africa, for choosing the Republic of South Africa and this city to host the Sixth IRLA World Congress. It was in this very City of Cape Town in Robben Island not far from here where the fathers and leaders of this nation like Nelson Mandela served elongated prison terms under the yoke of human oppression and yet in their physical bondage, they remained free because they were free in mind and soul. All manner of suffering inflicted upon them only served to strengthen their resolve to persist in the fight against human oppression and for the advancement and protection of individual rights.
They determined to die for the right cause so that others could live a life free from a wanton disregard of human freedoms. Such was their conviction and resolve towards liberation that they even declared, like Steve Bantu Biko that: “It is better to die for a living cause than to live for a dying cause.”
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STIRRING WORDS: Paul Ratsara, IRLA president for the South Africa region and president of the Adventist Church's Southern Africa--Indian Ocean Division, greeting more than 500 delegates to the 6th IRLA World Congress with remarks recalling the long struggle in South Africa to achieve basic human freedoms. [Glenn Mitchell]

Today we stand on the highest summit of liberation to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of these men and women who sacrificed all for the sake of such a gathering.

In recognition of the fact that the power of a focused mind, divine strengthened will and the liberating experience of a free soul was the cornerstone of any democracy, they insisted that South Africa’s freedom would not be complete unless the Right to Freedom of Religion, Belief and Conscience was guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. It is precisely because of this right, enshrined and protected in the Constitution of this beautiful land, that today we are able to gather in this fashion, free from any hindrances, to celebrate the fact that we are diverse and yet united by the common cords of humanity and a free spirit to express our beliefs, thoughts and consciences.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your assembling here today is a bold symbol marking your dedication to the protection and advancement of human rights globally. Your coming to this congress is an attestation of your unwavering commitment to putting a further building block in this house of religious liberty that we are building.
As we gather here, let us be cognizant of the fact that we are facing an uphill task: our theme is “Combating Religious Hatred through Freedom to Believe,” but our cause is just and we will be victorious. We are here to affirm and assert our belief that religious liberty is a God-given right. We are here to affirm with love yet with strong conviction our belief in the natural and inalienable right of freedom of conscience—to have or not have a religion; to adopt the religion or belief of one’s choice; to change religious belief according to conscience; to manifest one’s religious individually or in community with others, in worship, observance, practice, promulgation, and teaching—subject only to respect for the equivalent rights of others.
Religious liberty is one of the cornerstones of any nation because the power of a free individual conscience rooted in the hands of God is much greater than any wealth or political freedom humanity may ever experience . . . .