June 17, 2016

Budding Scientist Takes Stand for Sabbath in Italy

Kenan Digrazia, an aspiring 20-year-old astronomer in Italy, is never far from controversy because of his belief in Creation and the seventh-day Sabbath in a scientific community rooted in godless evolution.

But he is not shy about sharing his Seventh-day Adventist faith.

“Since I was a little boy, I tried to learn all about science,” said Digrazia, a physics student at the University of Catania, founded in 1434 and the oldest university in Sicily.

“I read many books, including the Bible. I especially liked the verse, ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can,’” he said, referring to Gen. 15:5 (NLT). “I like the stars the most because they reveal the incredible power of a God who created incredible things. If you compare our smallness to this big universe, it’s fantastic.”

Kenan also is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ragusa, Italy, which meets on the ground floor of an apartment building. The Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in December 2016 will help Adventists in Ragusa build a much-needed church building.

While in high school, Digrazia won the top score in all of Sicily in the Italian Mathematical Olympiad — a national, multi-level competition for high school students. The tests include challenging problems in algebra, combinatorics, geometry, and number theory.

Digrazia then learned that the national competition was scheduled to take place on a Saturday.

After praying, Digrazia approached the chairman of the Mathematical Olympiad. Explaining his situation, Kenan asked if it might be possible to change the exam date. He was told that the staff would consider his situation. It was the first time in the history of the Olympiad that anyone had made such a request.

Not long afterward Digrazia was surprised to be invited back by the Olympiad leaders, most of whom are university professors from around the world. The group questioned him about his religion. Kenan told them that he was a Seventh-day Adventist.

“But why do you keep the Sabbath?” a professor asked. The other Olympiad leaders chimed in with similar questions.

Digrazia explained that the Sabbath was rooted in Creation when God “rested on the seventh day … and sanctified it” (Gen. 2:2,3, NKJV).

This led the Olympiad leaders to ask, “Why do you believe in Creation?” They had difficulty understanding how a smart teenager could actually believe what they considered to be mythology.

“You don’t have to see everything through the same lens,” Digrazia replied. “Maybe religion doesn’t exclude science. There are many things we don’t know. In nature we have some proof that there is intelligent design. The Creator put all of the parts together. We didn’t come into this world from chaos. We’re part of a plan — something that God created.”

The Olympiad leaders were shocked. They had never heard anything like this from a competitor. They decided to change the national competition to a Friday. Digrazia was delighted. He achieved the sixth-highest score in the country and earned a university scholarship.

Digrazia’s witness continues at the University of Catania. Recently he’s been talking with his professors about the gravitational waves that were detected earlier this year. When two black holes collide and then merge with each other, they release energy in the form of gravitational waves. The union produces a single, massive spinning black hole 21 times the mass of the sun.

“This isn’t something that comes from chaos but from a wonderful mind,” Digrazia said. “It’s not chaos. … It confirms Creation.”

The reaction of the professors has been mixed.

“Some teachers accept what I’m saying and are really interested, and I can share with them,” Digrazia said. “Others just joke with me. But that’s a beginning. At least we’re building a relationship.”

Gina Wahlen is the editor of the Mission quarterly, a Seventh-day Adventist publication promoting mission and the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for more than 100 years.