Report from the Inter-European Division (EUD) PARL Advisory, hosted in Rome, Italy, June 3-6, 2013.
By Liviu Olteanu, Esq., Secretary General of the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty
The Public Affairs & Religious Liberty (PARL) department of Inter-European Division (EUD) in partnership with the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists (GC) met on June 3-6, 2013 with over twenty PARL directors and other religious officials in Rome, Italy, for the EUD Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Advisory.
EUD PARL Director and Secretary General of the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty (IADRL) Pastor Liviu Olteanu, Esq., the Permanent Representative of IADRL to the United Nations, and Main Representative to European Parliament, Council of Europe and OSCE, has been looking for the first Advisory. Olteanu believed that this advisory would equip his EUD Union colleagues with updated information and materials on Public Affairs and Religious Liberty. He joined with his GC colleagues to provide training on sensitive Public Affairs and Religious Liberty issues.
He presented topics such as “The Synergy of PARL with other SDA departments,” “The European Union and Religious Liberty,” and “The contribution of EUD to the European Union Freedom of Religion and Belief Guidelines.”
On the first day of Advisory, the meetings began with worship led by Portuguese Union President, Pastor Antonio Rodriguez.
The EUD PARL Director Liviu Olteanu made several presentations. He started his first presentation by clarifying and establishing first of all the framework of the global dimension of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty on the theme ‘Vision and the Structure of PARL Department at all levels of the Church (GC, EUD, Union, Conference, Church).
Dr. Ganoune Diop, Director United Nations Relations and Associate Director of GC PARL department also made several presentations. He outlined the ‘Foundations for Religious Liberty’ from biblical, theological and philosophical perspectives. He elaborated on Adventist contributions to this issue. He presented the SDA relations to the UN by clearly identifying common values and unique Adventist perspectives. He also shared a vision and practical tools for interfaith relations.
Dwayne Leslie, GC PARL Associate Director, and the PARL Unions directors gave practical presentations on how he organizes the annual Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington, DC and how this event can be replicated throughout the EUD as an effective tool to increase interaction with local government and diplomatic officials. He also reported on his work at the Capitol Hill in Washington.
Both Diop and Leslie presented the practical work of PARL and mentioned the contributions of Dr. John Graz. In addition to their representing the church, Leslie at a national level in the US and Diop at an international level, at the UN and at other interfaith fora (interreligious encounters), they spoke about their responsibilities in the publication of a journal, “Fides et Libertas”, the world report, and the program for the meeting of experts (Diop) and liberty dinner, TV programs, “Faith and Freedom,” and a twitter account (Leslie). The whole team of the GC department with its director, Dr. John Graz, focuses on Congresses, symposiums and festivals to promote religious freedom and put the Adventist church on the map of contributors to religious liberty.
Dr. Tiziano Rimoldi of Italy presented an interesting case of religious freedom in the European context.
There were several EUD Union’s reports: Tzanko Mitev- Bulgaria, Thomas Kabrt- Czech Republic, Dora Bognandi-Italy, Harald Mueller and Friedberg Hartmann-Germany, Paulo Sergio Macedo-Portugal, Nelu Burcea-Romania, Herbert Bodenmann- Switzerland.
For the future, there will be room for improvement of the PARL advisory: more time will be devoted to workshops, practical discussions on the national religious liberty issues and more time for interactions among participants, especially after the reports in order to get more input from this international gathering of people of experience.
I give my thanks to each one of my colleagues for all their contributions. I praise the Lord for this very useful meeting we had in Rome regarding religious liberty, and for the support received by the EUD officials to organize this event.