November 4, 2014

Romanian Leaders Back Religious Freedom at Adventist Forum

Top Romanian officials have pledged their support for religious liberty in the Eastern European nation's capital, Bucharest, during a two-day symposium sponsored by the Adventist-affiliated Conscience and Liberty Association.

Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean told attendees of the importance for religious denominations to be able to operate without restrictions on their traditions, beliefs or rituals.

“By supporting religious liberty and by condemning any attack against some religious communities, Romania has … gained a better social cohesion, proving that this is also thanks to this interreligious dialogue,” Corlatean said.

Corlatean delivered his remarks in the Human Rights Hall at the Palace of the Parliament on October 22. More than 120 dignitaries were in attendance, including government officials, religious leaders, and professors. Representatives included delegates from Harvard University in the United States, University of Montpellier in France, and from Complutense University of Madrid in Spain.

Nelu Burcea, president of the Conscience and Liberty Association, characterized the symposium as one that offered education and communication regarding religious freedom.

<strong>STANDING FOR FREEDOM:</strong> Delegates posing for a group picture at a religious freedom conference in Bucharest, Romania. Credit: EUD
<strong>HONORARY DOCTORATES:</strong> Adventist leaders John Graz, left, and Ganoune Diop holding honorary diplomas from Wallachia University in Targoviste. Credit: EUD

“The participation of our country’s officials showed Romania’s determination to move toward a total respect of religious liberty,” Burcea said. “It is important to transmit to future generations a message of peace and respect based on the values of human dignity.”

Burcea also serves as public affairs and religious liberty director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Romania. The Adventist Church is a key sponsor of the Conscience and Liberty Association, a non-sectarian organization that promotes religious freedom.

Romania has a population of more than 21 million, of which more than 80 percent are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Less than 7 percent are Protestant. There are 67,000 Adventists in the country.

Corlatean also highlighted the key educational role organizations and entities play in promoting religious freedom, including politicians, media professionals and clerics. Interreligious and interdenominational dialogue can ensure a climate based on mutual respect regardless of religious orientation, he said.

Victor Opaschi, Romania’s state secretary for religious affairs, said enforcing the law to protect religious liberty must be a “permanent concern” in maintaining democracy.

Mihnea Costoiu, Romania’s education and science minister, highlighted the need of “permanent education” for the benefits of “global and local religious pluralism.”

Costoiu also spoke on October 23 at a ceremony for the presentation of two honorary doctorates. Officials from Wallachia University in Targoviste presented the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to John Graz, secretary-general of the Adventist-connected International Religious Liberty Association, and Ganoune Diop, associate public affairs and religious liberty director of the Adventist Church’s General Conference.

Costoiu described Graz as “a global visionary who inspires and builds suitable solutions for governments and international diplomacy.”

Graz, who also serves as public affairs and religious liberty director of the General Conference, has visited Romanian churches and officials annually since 1987. In collaboration with the Conscience and Liberty Association, he presented numerous seminars for local and regional officials from more than 20 locations throughout the nation. Several of his books are also translated into Romanian.

Diop, who works as the church’s liaison to the United Nations, was also recognized for his interest in promoting human dignity as a foundation for all fundamental rights.

“His training sessions for officials and religious leaders has given us the perspective of continuing these endeavors and interests,” Costoiu said.