International ‘voice for liberty’ honored in Brazil

Dr. John Graz, Secretary General of the IRLA, was honored May 25 at the 2015 International Religious Liberty Symposium held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Graz was one of two Medal of Honor receipts, and he was praised for his more than twenty years of tireless work defending and promoting religious freedom around the world. 

At an event earlier in the weekend, in Manaus, Amazon, Graz spoke with the South American Adventist News Agency about his two decades as leader of the IRLA. Graz recalled that when he started in 1995, there were positive markers for the advancement of religious liberty in the world. The fall of communism, for example, in parts of eastern Europe mean that religious tolerance was gaining a foothold in previously closed-off nations. 

Gr
az said, however, that in recent years he’s seen a certain regression, especially in the rise of violence practiced by extremist religious groups. He also highlighted the tragedy of those in some countries who face imprisonment, torture, or persecution for converting to another religion. 

Although the concept of religious liberty has become, in some ways, more complicated to promote, Graz says he remains committed to the cause. “If you lose your religious liberty, you will lose all other liberties,” he said. “This liberty relates to human dignity.”

Graz did, however, see some bright spots. He said that in the past two decades, religious liberty has shown progress in China, Vietnam, and Tunisia, all countries in which there is now greater freedom than in previous years. [IRLA, SNA Team, Felipe Lemos]