A Special Mission for the Church’s International Ambassador
Jan. 22, 2013 Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
In January 11-13, 2013, history was been made in the French Island of Guadeloupe, in Central America, where the department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, under the capable leadership of Madame Patricia Sablier, hosted the first symposium on religious freedom. Hundreds of delegates witnessed a very successful event. The title was significant: “Peace of God, Duties of People, Freedom in Christ”, which rallied both Adventists and non-Adventists. The objective was to raise awareness among Seventh-day Adventists about the need for religious liberty as a key factor to peaceful social coexistence and collaboration. It was also to delineate, encourage and consolidate Adventist identity and at the same time encourage productive engagements with other Christians and people of other faiths or of no faith. The mission of being salt, light, and leaven cannot be fulfilled in isolation from people of one’s immediate community.
Several guest speakers were invited: Doctor Ganoune Diop, from the General Conference of Seventh day Adventists shared four presentations and a Sabbath morning sermon. The presentations are the following:
- Biblical and Theological Foundations for Human Dignity
- Religious Freedom and Fundamental Freedoms: A Biblical and Practical Perspective
- Inter-Church and Interfaith and Relations: Adopting the Divine Model
- The Heart of the Revelation and Jesus Christ: Free to Relate to God and Others
The Sabbath sermon focused on God’s overarching plan of reconciliation and restoration.
Mrs. Dora Bognandi, from Italy, shared a wonderful presentation about the gift of oneself to others. She also brought very helpful perspectives on the relation between the European Union and the so-called Sunday law. Pastor Thierry Lenoir from Switzerland, with competence and intelligence, gave practical tools on interreligious dialogue, and interchurch relations.
Pastor Roberto Herrera, director of PARL in the Inter-American division, in addition to his presentation of religious liberty as a gift of God, graced participants with clear insights on Religious Liberty and Mission of the Church.
Local experts brought incontrovertible aspects on contextual matters. The historian Mrs. Eliane Sempaire’s brilliant presentation set the stage to understanding the historical components involved in reference to Adventism in Guadaloupe. She expounded upon the issue of secularism, more specifically French Laïcité, asking the question whether this model can be conceived as State atheism.
The presentation of Daniel Milard, using an interdisciplinary approach especially sociology, added useful insights of survival, adaptation, and current dynamics of relations between Adventists and other Christians and local political leaders. A local leader, Pastor Fred Navrer addressed the issue of proselytism and indicated helpful tools to ease tensions between communities while being loyal to one’s mandate to witness to one’s faith or lack thereof. A pluralistic society secures for all, the prerogative to share one’s convictions.
The reaction of the participants was enthusiastic. Several insisted repeatedly that the proceedings of this symposium should be published and made available to people not only in that part of the world but elsewhere as well.
The president of the regional counsel, Madame Borel-Lincertin, the highest political authority, graced the congress with her presence on Saturday morning. A representative on the mayor’s office also attended most of the meetings.
Dr. Diop expressed to both of them words of thanks and offered them folders with material from the General Conference explaining who Seventh-day Adventists are and what they do as blessings to others. These were tokens of appreciation for their work to promote religious freedom and social peace.
A very special moment occurred when on the island of Saint Martens Dr. Diop met the director of the economic, social, and cultural affairs sharing with her and her team on the theme “Understanding Other Peoples’ Religions” as a key component for social peace. They expressed their desire for a continued training and collaboration on these matters.
Dr. Diop also met political leaders of the island of Saint Marten in order to make a case that Adventists are assets to society. Adventists are gifts to others for the promotion of freedom, justice, and peace, and hope. While actively working to make this world into a better place, with reference to health, education, humanitarian assistance, human rights, the life of women, youth and children, Adventists are also mindful of a better world Jesus comes soon to bring. This joyous anticipation they share in the respect of the dignity of every person.