IRLA Promotes Mutual Respect in Conflict-weary Chiapas

Event brings together government officials, activists, and religious leaders

 

Religious conflict has plagued the southern Mexican state of Chiapas for more than three decades, yet a meeting of religious freedom advocates in San Cristóbal de las Casas on July 16 aimed to send a strong message in support of acceptance and mutual respect for all people of faith. More than 650 people attended the Second Forum on Religious Freedom, organized by the Mexican Chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association. Among the speakers were the general director of the federal Department of Religious Affairs and the director of the Office of Religious Affairs for the State of Chiapas. Both speakers stressed the important role the government must play in protecting religious freedom and fostering a culture of tolerance.

Dr. John Graz, IRLA Secretary General, also spoke at the event, and he commended the national and state governments for increasing protection for religious minorities and for supporting victims of intolerance and violence. Roberto Herrera, IRLA Secretary General for Inter America, brought a message of encouragement to the participants, urging them to become even more active in their churches and their communities in promoting mutual respect between people of different faiths.

The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Mexico, Pastor David Perez, announced at the conclusion of the forum that Adventists plan to organize a major Religious Freedom Festival to be held March 2013 in Tuxtla Gutierez. They hope the event, which is planned as a celebration of improved religious freedom in Chiapas, will attract some 30,000 people.

The Second Forum for Religious Freedom marked the conclusion of Dr. Graz and Roberto Herrera’s visit to Chiapas. During their four-day stay, they also spoke to students at the University of Linda Vista in Nuevo Pueblo, and to two gatherings of pastors working in Chiapas.