Advocates Suggest Practical Ideas to Promote Religious Freedom

National Conference in Brazil discusses ways of supporting this basic human right.

Vanessa Moraes, South American Division, and Adventist Review
Advocates Suggest Practical Ideas to Promote Religious Freedom
John Graz (second from left) has presented on more than 80 countries on the topic of religious freedom. [Photo: Raphael Souza]

Around the world, approximately 360 million Christians suffer persecution and discrimination because of their faith, according to the latest annual report by Open Doors International, an organization that monitors and supports persecuted Christians. “That’s one in seven Christians,” the report states.

Open Doors International data also point out that cases of Christians murdered because of their faith increased from 4,761 in 2021 to 5,898 in 2022. Arrests have also grown a whopping 44 percent. It is the highest increase since the first survey 29 years ago.

As a secular state, Brazil is protected by the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience and belief as a fundamental right. It guarantees every human being the free exercise of religious worship in places specifically devoted to that end and according to every person’s conscience.

Freedom 25

Against this backdrop, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil held a national conference on religious freedom titled “Freedom 25.” The event took place in São Paulo May 13-15.

The event suggested 100 practical ideas to strengthen religious freedom, all to be implemented by 2025. It trained and mobilized students, pastors, and volunteer leaders to promote, advocate, and protect religious freedom. It also sought to advance 25 specific topics in five areas: church, society, state, labor, and education, organizers said.

The topics chosen tackled the overall theme of the conference in the context of ethnic-racial challenges, human rights, bioethics, media, environment, a culture of hatred, Adventism, politics, schools, and family issues.

“Through a thorough discussion of these topics, the conference sought to promote peace and respect,” organizers said. Lectures were broadcast live on the official Adventist Church YouTube channel in the South American Division. Experts participated in panels on specific topics, some tuning in via Zoom.

Feedback From Experts

Keynote addresses included Maria Claudia Bucchianeri, Elections Court minister; John Graz, former general secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA); Bill Knott, associate director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Adventist Church; Luigi Braga, general counsel for Adventist institutions in the South American Division; and Stéfanne Ortelan, assistant attorney for the South American Division of the Adventist Church.

In her speech on religious freedom and the State, Bucchianeri said that “allowing respect for the rights of those who profess their faith is attainable from a public power point of view. The Constitution does not contemplate people being deprived of their rights because of their religious beliefs,” she emphasized.

On the other hand, Graz said that about 75 percent of the world’s population lives in regions where religious freedom is restricted. At Freedom 25, Graz discussed religious freedom in the context of society.

“People are discriminated against because of their religion. It’s a situation that hasn’t changed, and I’m not sure it will. That’s why it’s so important to talk about it, and Brazil is one of the best countries to debate this topic,” Graz said.

For Heron Santana, one of the organizers of the event and director of religious liberty for the Adventist Church in Bahia and Sergipe, the event dealt with “street religious freedom,” because it manifests itself “in the marital relationship, the vulnerability of our neighbor, and in the relationship of the church with the community,” he said. “This conference was a dream. Freedom 25 brought the possibility of looking at the religious freedom that transcends theories and becomes part of people’s lives.”The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.

Vanessa Moraes, South American Division, and Adventist Review