As world leaders met at the Group of 20 summit in Turkey, a senior Seventh-day Adventist Church official told religious leaders at a related gathering that religious freedom was essential to tackling the root causes of poverty.
Ganoune Diop, director of the public affairs and religious liberty department at the Adventist world church, delivered a plenary address on the final day of the G20 Interfaith Summit held Nov. 16-18 in Istanbul.
Diop stressed in his presentation, “Moral Foundations for the Sustainable Development Goals: On Dignity, Freedom and Solidarity,” that religious freedom is a pivotal human right that is central to all other freedoms and is key to nurturing sustainable development.
“Political and economic strategies are, of course, important in addressing issues of sustainable development,” Diop said.
“But faith and faith values play a tremendous and often unrecognized role in many different facets of human interaction,” he said. “For this reason, religions should bring their best values to the world’s economic challenges, and people of faith need to work together to alleviate suffering and promote the well-being of all.”
Other speakers at the G20 Interfaith Summit included David Saperstein, ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the U.S. State Department; Rahmi Yaran, grand mufti of Istanbul; and Heiner Bielefeldt, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief at the United Nations.
The terrorist attacks in Paris, coming just days prior to the start of the summit, lent a particular urgency to discussions, especially those related to building more harmonious relations between people of faith, Diop said.
The G20 Interfaith Summit was the second time that religious leaders have gathered on the sidelines of the main G20 meetings. The event brought together academics, public leaders, and representatives from a broad range of faith groups, including Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and Muslims to discuss how religion and religious values drive positive economic development.
Diop said it was vital that Adventists be a part of the conversation at an international level.
“When Jesus was on Earth, He mingled with people. He engaged with their problems and concerns in practical, compassionate ways,” he said.
“As Jesus’ followers, Adventists cannot exist in isolation,” he said. “We’re connected with humanity, and we stand in solidarity with a world that aches with injustice and suffering of many different kinds.”
He added that Adventists have unique contributions to make to any discussion about how religion can boost quality of life.
The International Religious Liberty Association, a non-sectarian, non-governmental organization originally chartered by the Adventist Church in 1893 and still supported by Adventists, was one of 25 organizations, faith groups, and universities that sponsored the G20 Interfaith Summit.