e resolved that the impact of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on geopolitical and global human rights issues is ineffective and, therefore, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is unable to contribute to lasting, global, social change.”
Theresa Francis and her debate team challenged the above statement in a live debate at the General Conference headquarters on March 15, 2005. Below is her essay supporting the contribution that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is making in the global arena, written and presented when Francis was a twelfth-grade student at Bermuda Institute of Seventh-day Adventists. Elements of oral delivery have been retained.—Editors.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Theresa Francis. In an age in which the role of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as it relates to world issues is being heavily questioned, I will prove that the church does make an impact on the world—and human rights is no exception.
The book International Politics on the World Stage by John T. Rourke defines human rights as the quality of life that, at a minimum, does not detract from a person’s human dignity. There are four realms of human rights. I will show you today how the Adventist Church is having an impact on each aspect of human rights, and is effecting change in our world.
The first aspect of human rights is survival needs, which is the right to be free from individual and collective violence
Human trafficking is a practice that dates back hundreds of years. But it is still going on today. Some may believe that these things occur only in underdeveloped countries. But human trafficking is happening here in the United States. Many men, women, and children are conned into the idea that they are being brought to a better country so they can have an opportunity at a better life. Unfortunately, this is not so. After being brought here, they are stripped of their visas and forced to work for little or no pay. These people cannot speak up for themselves because they are illegal immigrants who feel they have no options.
What are we, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, doing about this? We have joined a coalition of non-profit organizations dedicated to extinguishing human trafficking.* Now, you may say, “How is joining a coalition effective?” The Adventist Church did not simply join the coalition; work was also involved. Before becoming a member of the coalition, each organization must shed light on the negative effects of human trafficking, provide information sessions, and also encourage other organizations to join. I believe that this is a strong example of how the Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking a stand against individual and collective violence.
The second aspect of human rights is well-being needs, which includes the right to adequate nutrition and water, protection from diseases, and all other biological wants (Rourke, 2004).
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking a stand in regard to the well-being of earth’s citizens mainly through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, better known as ADRA.
ADRA is a humanitarian relief organization with a presence in 125 countries. These countries include Thailand and Sri Lanka, and continents such as Africa, in which people don’t always have the opportunity to attend school. In Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus admonishes us to go out into the world and teach, heal, and help those in need. It is impossible to look at ADRA and not clearly see how this organization is effecting change.
Here are some examples.
- In Uganda ADRA has completed the Ntandi Primary School rehabilitation and construction project—the first school ever built for Pygmies in western Uganda. This project allows nearly 120 students to register and attend classes for grades 1 through 4.
- ADRA was building the school for the Bativa Pygmies of Uganda, but construction was brought to a screeching halt because of civil unrest. Construction resumed after ADRA provided funding for the project through international and private donations.
- ADRA has a long history of providing food, water, shelter, and medicine to the people in countries plagued by devastation. For example, from January 21 through January 30, 2005, ADRA responded to the needs of Guyana by providing water, food, and medicine for the survivors of a flood. The entire project was valued at about $10,000.
I would like to focus on two additional relief projects sponsored by ADRA.
First, ADRA provided assistance for the victims of the tsunami that occurred in Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004. ADRA was one of the first relief agencies to assist in the tsunami disaster, and they provided these countries with a total of more than $39,000,000 in relief funds.
Second, ADRA opened an office in Zambia in 1986. One of their first projects was a plan to replace old diesel-powered water pumps that often break down with self-relying solar-powered water pumps and water storage tanks. In this same community ADRA is providing home-based care for 100 HIV-positive children.
According to world humanitarian organizations as well as the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, ADRA is one of the more efficient relief agencies operating in the world. According to 2004 figures, more than 90 percent of private donations are used for direct humanitarian services, benefiting more than 24 million people worldwide, and with assistance valued at more than $129,000,000,000. ADRA is clearly effecting change in our world.
The third realm of human rights is identity needs, which includes the right to self-expression, the right to contribute through work and other activities, and the right to receive information about and maintain contact with nature, global humanity, and other aspects of the biosphere
Mr. James Standish, the director of Legislative Affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has made a serious effort to challenge unfair dismissal in the workplace. As a matter of fact, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act was presented to Congress in 2005. This bill states that a person should be treated fairly by their employers. This bill is supported by such prominent leaders as a senator from New York—Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton—and the current president of the United States, President George Bush. These leaders firmly believe that religious discrimination is wrong. This bill is a clear move by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a positive direction toward the abolition of workplace discrimination.
The final aspect of human rights is freedom needs, which is the right to receive and express opinions. It also includes the right to have a say in common policy, and to have a choice in such matters as jobs, spouses, housing, and lifestyles (Rourke, 2004).
Once again the Adventist Church is effecting social change because of the strides they are taking in order to bring religious freedom around the world. One example can be cited in the country of Turkmenistan. Through the efforts of Mr. Standish and the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department of the General Conference, its practice of religious freedom has changed. Turkmenistan is a small, underdeveloped country with large problems. In 2005 its citizens were fighting for the right to worship freely. There was only one Adventist church in the entire country of Turkmenistan, and it was destroyed simply because the country’s dictator no longer wanted it there. Women’s rights to free expression were also taken away. One female church member decided to hold a Bible study in her home, and because of this the government forced her to leave her home. She was unable to find another place to live because her president decided that her rights were not important. Mr. Standish fought vigorously to liberate the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Turkmenistan. As a result, recognition for our church was obtained, and was listed as number 0001 on the list of churches in the country of Turkmenistan.
In conclusion, I believe that I have shown how the Seventh-day Adventist Church is playing a part to meet the human rights needs of earth’s citizens. We are having a global impact.