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Outstanding Work in Religious Liberty Recognized at GC

Photos and story by Phillip Castell

In an effort to show appreciation and recognize the outstanding work by Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) around the world, the department of PARL of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists hosted a special luncheon on July 8, 2015 during the 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas.


Pastor Everett Brown (left), president of the Seventh-day Adventists Church in Jamaica receives his Certificate of Achievement from Dr. John Graz (right), newly retired director of the PARL department of the Adventist World Church during the PARL Awards luncheon at the H. B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. At centre is Mr. Dwayne Leslie, Associate PARL director of the Adventist World Church. (Photos by Phillip Castell)

Eleven Certificates of Achievement and eight awards for excellence were presented to the church’s outstanding religious liberty advocates who were directly involved in promoting and defending religious freedom over the past five years.

Pastor Ted Wilson, re-elected president of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church and Dr. Ganoune Diop, newly elected Director of PARL presented the awards.

“The awards demonstrate in only a small way the tremendous blessing that you are to the World Church,” said Pastor Wilson. “I do want to express appreciation on behalf of the World Church for what you do as directors of PARL and presidents of Divisions who take a special interest in this area.”


Mr. Nigel Coke (left), PARL director of Seventh-day Adventists Church in Jamaica receives his award from Dr. Ganoune Diop (centre), newly elected PARL director of the Adventist World Church. At right is Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the Adventist World Church.

The Inter-American Division (IAD) dominated the awards segment with three of the eight awards presented. Pastor Israel Leito, president, received the Religious Liberty Division World Award, Pastor Roberto Herrera, received the PARL Division World Director Award and the Jamaica Union Conference (JAMU) and PARL director, Nigel Coke received the Religious Liberty National Event Award for the successful staging of the first Festival of Religious Liberty in Jamaica on January 24 this year.

Pastor Everett Brown, President of the Jamaica Union Conference, was among the recipients of Certificate of Achievement from Dr. John Graz, newly retired director of the PARL department of the Adventist World Church for his support and advocacy in the area of religious liberty.


Pastor Ted Wilson (right), president  of the Adventist World Church, congratulates Nigel Coke on his recognition by the General Conference. Partly hidden (L-R) are Dr. Ganoune Diop and Dr. John Graz.

Dr. Ganoune Diop in his first public address since being elected director of PARL at the Adventist World Convocation made a commitment to do his best to offer the Church a comprehensive vision of PARL.

“Sometimes we focus on religious liberty, but the first element of PARL is public affairs,” said Diop. “We will make sure to offer to the Church a clear understanding of what public affairs is all about.”

Dr. Graz Recognized by JAMU

During the luncheon, Dr. Graz was recognized by JAMU who seized the opportunity to present him with a framed canvas photograph of himself presenting a copy of his book “Issues of Faith and Freedom” to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller during his courtesy call on her on Friday, January 23, 2015 at Jamaica House.  The framed photograph, which was presented by Pastor Everett Brown, was autographed by the Prime Minister.


Pastor Israel Leito (left), president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America receives his award from Dr. Ganoune Diop (second left), newly elected PARL director of the Adventist World Church. Others in the photo from left to right are: Mr. Dwayne Leslie, Associate PARL director of the Adventist World Church, Dr. john Graz, newly retired director of the PARL department of the Adventist World Church and Pastor Ted Wilson, president  of the Adventist World Church.

In his comments before the presentation, Coke told the audience that Dr. Graz had been his friend and mentor and was the one who inspired him to help lead the team that successfully staged the historic Festival of Religious Freedom in Jamaica.

Pastor Wilson also expressed appreciation to Dr.  Graz for his invaluable and outstanding contribution over the years and said he will be missed when he returns to his homeland in Switzerland for retirement.


Pastor Ted Wilson (right),  president  of the Adventist World Church congratulates Pastor Roberto Herrera (left), PARL Director of the Seventh-day Adventist in Inter-America after he had received his award from Dr. Ganoune Diop (second left), newly elected PARL director of the Adventist World Church.  Also enjoying the moment is Dr. John Graz.

Dr. Graz retires from years of active service to the Adventist Church, twenty of which he served as head of the GC PARL department and Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA).


Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Seventh-day Adventists Church in Jamaica, presents an elated Dr. John Graz (right), newly retired director of the PARL department of the Adventist World Church with a framed canvas photograph of himself presenting a copy of his book “Issues of Faith and Freedom” to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller during his courtesy call on her on Friday, January 23, 2015 at Jamaica House. At left is Nigel Coke, PARL director of Seventh-day Adventists Church in Jamaica.


Mrs. Lana Brown (second left), the wife of Pastor Everett Brown (third from left)pins Dr. Graz with a Jamaica Union Conference 125th Anniversary Pin. Looking on from left to right are: Nigel Coke and Dr. Ganoune Diop.


Mrs. Bobbette Coke (second left), the wife of Nigel Coke (left) places a Jamaica Union Conference 125th Anniversary cap on Dr. John Graz’s head to complete the presentation package. Partly hidden are; Pastor Everett Brown and Dr. Ganoune Diop.


Dr. John Graz’s gift autographed by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.


Dr. John Graz poses for the camera with is gifts.