In the Amazon, Thousands Celebrate Religious Freedom

More than 7,000 people gathered in Manaus, Brazil—the largest city in the Amazon—to express thanks to the government for protecting religious liberty. The event, held Saturday, May 23, was the third religious liberty festival to be held in Brazil, and was organized by the South American chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). 

D
r. John Graz, Secretary General of the IRLA, was one of the international speakers featured at the festival. He said that religious liberty is often taken for granted, and asked his listeners to imagine life without the right to freely practice one’s faith. “Without religious freedom, parents would not even have the right to raise their child in their own faith or beliefs,” said Graz.

Graz emphasized that mass events such as these, which are organized by the IRLA in many different countries, are held to express gratitude for the basic human right. 

One speaker at the festival highlighted the importance of respecting religious beliefs. Designer Diego Arlinson, who works for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the states of Amazonas, Rondônia, Roraima, and Acre, has won state prizes for his work, but for a number of years was unable to collect his prizes. The award ceremony was held on Friday evening—the beginning of Sabbath for Arlinson. “I decided, in previous years, that I would not go and so I sent a letter for the organizers explaining that I was not going for religious principles,” said Arlinson. “I was surprised that in the last edition, they had changed the date for giving the prized to Thursday. I won once again and, this time, I was able to go and receive the prize without any problems with my beliefs.” 

The festival, held at Canaã Auditorium in Manaus, also featured musical trubites, from three well-known Brazilian groups, Solanza and Art Trio, along with singer Marquinhos Maraial. Several regional, national, and world leaders of IRLA were honored with medals and certificates in recognition of their efforts to promote religious liberty in the country. [Felipe Lemos, SNA]