Two Seventh-day Adventist religious liberty advocates were among those invited to participate in a landmark religious freedom summit organized by the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.
The event, which began July 24, 2018, was the first ever of its kind, and brought together government officials from some 80 nations, along with an internationally diverse group of religious leaders and non-governmental organization representatives. Together, attendees spent three days listening to firsthand accounts of religious persecution and exploring ways to promote religious freedom as a basic human right.
The event was hosted by Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, who told attendees that “millions of people of all faiths are suffering every day” because of religious persecution, even though religious freedom—expressed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—is enshrined in international law. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also addressed the group, saying that “tragically, a stunning 83 percent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is either threatened or even banned.”
Ganoune Diop, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) for the Adventist world church, and Dwayne Leslie, associate PARL director for legislative affairs, attended the invitation-only event on behalf of the church and sought to bring a uniquely Adventist perspective to current religious freedom challenges.
“Adventists believe that freedom of conscience — the right to believe or not to believe — is a gift from God to every human being, and it’s a right that transcends national or political interests,” explained Diop. He said the church welcomes any initiative that raises awareness about religious freedom challenges, and which brings people together around the issue.
Speakers at the event highlighted hotspots of persecution around the world, from the deadly targeting of Christians in Nigeria to the harsh treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, to the violence against Yazidis in Iraq.