Adventist Judge Seeks Healing, Justice
Uganda’s Daniel Nsereko found call in helping oppressed (Posted June 21, 2012)

BY BARRY W. BUSSEY, writing from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Speaking to a group of Seventh-day Adventist lawyers is not the usual assignment for Daniel Nsereko, currently serving as a judge in the appeals chamber of the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Yet Nsereko’s message struck a chord with his listeners at the international Adventist attorneys’ meeting held recently in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: “Lawyers are healers,” he said. His presentation was met with a standing ovation.

Nsereko’s speech was part biographical, part philosophical, and part legal. His father was an active lay preacher of the Anglican Church who converted to Seventh-day Adventism. Nsereko gravitated toward his mother’s faith in his early years, but at age 18 he joined his father’s church. Living in a family with different religious views helped him to appreciate religious difference and be tolerant of others.

He enjoyed school and thought of various career possibilities—including medicine, aviation, even the military. Though his father encouraged him to pursue an education career, he was drawn to the study of law.

NEWLY APPOINTED JUDGE: Daniel Nsereko, until recently, was a judge at the International Criminal Court at The 
Hague, Netherlands. On March 12 he was appointed as a new appeals chamber judge. He recently spoke to fellow 
Seventh-day Adventist attorneys during a meeting in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where he also addressed the seventh IRLA World Congress. [PHOTO: A. Oliver/ANN]
Nsereko’s fascination with the historical struggle for the freedom of the oppressed—the rise of the peasants in the French Revolution, and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War—gave him a calling to advocate for justice. Individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi and Ugandan Roman Catholic archbishop Janani Luwum, who were both assassinated for their dedication to the cause of the unjustly treated, convinced Nsereko that law was the profession to engage the perpetrators of injustice.

Nsereko experienced the chagrin of fellow church members for his choice of pursuing law: “No one ever questions whether a doctor is a Christian,” he noted, but many question the faith credentials of a lawyer. He was not deterred. His dedication to eradicating injustice has been a lifelong commitment and passion.

“There is no society without law,” Nsereko shared with the attentive audience. “Without law everyone does as they wish, and the law of the jungle prevails.” As law is important for society, so lawyers are important for the law.

He found inspiration in Scripture: “Blessed are those who keep justice” (Ps. 106:3).* He reminded the audience that the community needs Christian lawyers to be good ambassadors, leaders who are lights in the world of injustice. They are to make a difference as Joseph did in Egypt, as Daniel did in Babylon. He also noted the words of Ellen G. White, who wrote, “As disciples of Christ, you are not debarred from engaging in temporal pursuits; but you should carry your religion with you. Whatever the business you may qualify yourself to engage in, never entertain the idea that you cannot make a success of it without sacrificing principle” (Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 82, 83).

Throughout his career—in private practice in Uganda and as a judge at the International Criminal Court—Nsereko advocated justice while maintaining his own Christian walk. Even today when he enters his office at the court he takes the first 10 minutes for prayer—asking the Lord to give him wisdom for the day’s activity.

“The role of a judge untangling the complex issues and making decisions requires wisdom,” Nsereko maintains. One of his favorite texts is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6).

From his successful representation of Ugandan widows being forced off their land to the international justice issues of dealing with the world’s strong men, Nsereko has practiced law as a healer. n

* Texts in this article are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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