The following is a commentary on recent and concerning events in the African country of Burundi. For additional details and context to this developing story, we encourage you to also read a previously posted article available at this link. ~ Editors
The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not involve itself in the establishment or downfall of governments. Its official adherence to the principle of separation of religion and state precludes any entanglement in the affairs of any government or any state. Its 21 million members worldwide have the freedom to choose their political representatives according to their individual consciences.
Religious freedom, the issue which is at the heart of the current crisis in Burundi, is not only the right to worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience, and the right of religious organizations to conduct their affairs without government interference, but is, at a deeper level, freedom from being harmed, hurt, intimidated, humiliated, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured or murdered. Violence against citizens to make them comply with the preferences of those who govern a country is utterly unethical and inhumane. Peaceful persuasion should always be preferred over coercion.
The internationally-affirmed principle of no coercion in matters of belief also applies to national governments, which should not intrude in the affairs of the Church.
This principle is violated whenever a government tries to dictate to the Church how to run its internal affairs. No government should attempt to influence the choice of Seventh-day Adventist leaders. This is simply unacceptable. If the Church allows this kind of intrusion, its own raison d’être would be jeopardized as a space where the foundational status of freedom of conscience undergirds all other freedoms.