March 15, 2017

Brazil Adventist Students Celebrate National Exam Day Change

South American Division News Agency

The National Exam for Senior Students—a secondary school exit test known in Brazil as the Enem—will be moved from Saturdays to Sundays, announced officers of the Department of Education in the capital city of Brasilia on March 9. Educational officers explained that after a public consultation about potential modifications to the mandatory exam, it was decided to change the day students are required to take it.

The official announcement was made by José Mendonça Filho, Brazil’s Education Secretary. According to Filho, the day change tries to accommodate and meet basic levels of human decency and respect. “As we promote the Enem exam, it is our duty to treat everyone with dignity, respect for basic human rights, and to apply the same ideal conditions to every student.”

José Mendonça Filho, Brazil's Education Secretary, announces that mandatory national exams for seniors will now be offered on Sundays instead of Saturdays, during a press conference in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 9. [Photo by Vanessa Arba]

Seventh-day Adventists and other faiths follow the biblical injunction that commands believers to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Accordingly, they abstain from engaging in any secular activity, and following the example of Jesus, spend the seventh-day each week in worshiping God and serving their fellow human beings.

In the past, Seventh-day Adventist students usually began the exam after sunset, which proved to be a substantial disadvantage. Also, Sabbath-keeping students usually underwent physical and emotional fatigue even before starting to write the exam, as they were shut away for hours to avoid cheating before being finally allowed into the exam room. According to some estimations, about 70,000 students used to request a late start when the exam was offered on Saturdays.

Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders and members in Brazil believe the change is a triumph not only for Sabbath-keepers but also for the principle of religious liberty. The latest development in Brazil seems to follow a trend around the world of government authorities listening to people who are willing to fight for rights involving their liberty of conscience and belief. Last week, Adventist Review reported that Seventh-day Adventist students in Kenya are now authorized to skip classes and exams on Sabbath.

In the case of Brazil, the government applied a public consultation (or survey) asking for feedback about several particulars of the Enem, including a preferred day for sitting for the exam. Sixty-four percent of the more than 600,000 Brazilian citizens who answered the survey voted to change the exam day from Saturday to Sunday.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil acknowledges the Brazilian government’s efforts to accommodate students who, following their conscience, choose to keep the Sabbath holy.

“Sabbath-keepers, specifically Seventh-day Adventists, are not asking for special privileges in contrast to other candidates,” said Erton Köhler, president of the South American Division, or church region, of the world church. “On the contrary, they just ask to enjoy the same opportunities before such an important moment, which can potentially define the professional future of thousands of them for years to come.” Köhler thanked every Adventist member in Brazil who campaigned and voted to make this change possible.

According to church statistics in South America, there are 1.6 million baptized Seventh-day Adventist members in Brazil, out of the 20 million baptized members around the world, which makes this South American nation the country with most church members in the world.