The Seventh-day Adventist Church, founder of the world’s
largest forum solely dedicated to religious liberty, will join organizations
around the world in commemorating International Religious Freedom Day next
Adventist leaders have promoted religious freedom since the
church’s founding in 1863 and in 1889 chartered the National Religious Liberty
Association, which today is the International Religious Liberty Association and
the world’s largest religious freedom forum. The Adventist Church remains a key
sponsor of the organization.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a long and great
history promoting religious freedom,” said John Graz, public affairs and
religious liberty director for the church.
International Religious Freedom Day is commemorated on
October 27, the day the U.S. Congress passed the International Religious
Freedom Act in 1998. Though it’s American in origin, church leaders say it’s a
time for all governments, leaders, and citizens to spotlight the freedom
enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 18 states that "everyone has the right to
freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to
change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with
others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in
teaching, practice, worship and observance."
Dwayne Leslie, the Adventist Church’s legislative affairs
director, said underscoring religious freedom is about “human dignity” and
understanding that everyone has an “inherent right to believe or not believe”
according to their conscience.
“As Seventh-day Adventists, we often find ourselves in the
religious minority, but we have always recognized the importance to defend this
right, not just for us, but also for individuals with whom the church had
little else in common,” Leslie said.
Leslie said 75 percent of the world’s population lives under
a form of restriction on religion.
“This annual day of emphasis, and accompanying presidential
proclamation, help keep this important issue in the public's focus,” Leslie
Church leaders regularly travel to participate in various
ceremonies and programs to promote religious freedom. The church also hosts
forums, large-scale public meetings, and produces the TV
show “Global Faith & Freedom” on the Hope Channel to promote the issue.