Adventists Call for More 
Religious Freedom

Planning continues for May 2013 event in Brazil. (Posted January 17, 2013)


Geraldo Alckmin, São Paulo state governor, welcomed the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s top public affairs leader December 10, 2012, five months ahead of a large-scale celebration of religious liberty that the church will sponsor.

John Graz, director of the General Conference’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, visited with state and city leaders recently to finalize preparations for the World Festival of Religious Freedom, scheduled for May 25, 2013, in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.

FREEDOM QUEST: Representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Church meet with São Paulo, Brazil, state governor Geraldo Alckmin, center. At left is Edson Rosa, the Adventist Church’s religious liberty director in South America; at right is John Graz, General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department director.
The city of São Paulo’s vice mayor, Nadia Champion, said she welcomed the coming event “with great enthusiasm.”

Champion said, “São Paulo is the most suitable place to welcome people who bring this message of tolerance and religious freedom as a value important to modern society.”

While Graz and local Adventist Church leaders complimented Brazil on its religious freedom, they also urged Brazil to do more. In a speech to church leaders in Brasilia the previous week Graz called on national leaders to speak out more on issues of religious freedom in international forums, such as the United Nations. The rise of Brazil politically and economically would give the country more influence in such forums, Graz said.

“Today at least 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with serious religious restrictions,” Graz told attendees in the Brasilia Higher Education Institution auditorium.

He also highlighted the Adventist Church’s attempts to support two members imprisoned on unfounded charges in the West African nation of Togo. South America has had a large rate of participation in awareness campaigns for the two men. Graz said Brazil could be even more “politically engaged” on behalf of religious freedom.

So far, Brazil has enacted strong measures supporting religious freedom in the diverse nation. Luigi Braga, general counsel for the Adventist Church’s South American Division, praised existing legal measures, including a dedicated telephone line that allow people to report abuses of religious freedom and other human rights offenses.

This year’s religious freedom festival is the second such event. A similar one was held in Peru in 2009. The event’s coordinator, Edson Rosa, public affairs and religious liberty director for the South American Division, said such festivals help raise awareness about the importance of tolerance for different ways of worship. The large-scale celebrations also offer thanks to countries that protect religious liberty, he said.

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