An hour before the conference began, there were already about 100 people logged on and waiting. Hope TV Ghana, an Adventist television station, live streamed the highly anticipated meeting in Africa. About 500,000 people were estimated to have been reached. On YouTube channels, Facebook pages, Telegram and also on WhatsApp, this Religious Liberty meeting was highly anticipated.
The goal was to reach 1,000 participants among leaders and youths from the 22 countries of the West-Central Africa Division (WAD). The information was also shared with participants from outside of Africa, such as: Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States of America, Canada, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and also outside of the Adventist Church.
According to Pastor Elie Weick-Dido, President of the WAD, this conference was necessary "because so many brothers and sisters are panicking. They have received prophecies and interpretations that have frightened them. We are the people of the Book. We are not a people of ignorance." To get the message across, the presentations were translated into languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, and also into African languages including Fulfulde, Hausa, Igbo, Twi and Yoruba.
The speakers took turns to address topics that are the subject of much discussion and debate. Dr. André Nda'a, Director of Health Ministries at the DAO, spoke about the controversies surrounding vaccines in history, showing that what is happening today is not at all new. Above all, we must be wary of the rumors and false information that swarm the social networks.
Bannor Wireko, a participant, asked: "What was the view of the Adventist church at the time of the smallpox pandemic and its vaccine?" Dr. Laurisse Sossah from Trinidad and Tobago responded in the Zoom chat box with this quote, "Ellen White set an example of practical prevention in the face of the deadly disease of her day-smallpox-and got the vaccine herself, as did her relatives." (Al-Haddad, 2021). She also added this statement from Arthur White, " During the Polio outbreak of the mid-twentieth century, there were discussions about whether or not to take the vaccine. Arthur White, grandson of Ellen White and secretary of the White Estate, responded to a letter he received, “If someone has informed you that Sister White counseled against vaccination or inoculations, they are mistaken."
Following the presentation by Professor Daniel Bediako, Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute, participants appreciated the clarity of Biblical truth. He spoke about the vaccine in light of Scripture. "We need not fear receiving the mark unknowingly through vaccination. Scripture does not address the issue of vaccines. But if Scripture allows the use of medicine (herbal or processed), we should not expect that Scripture will disapprove of responsible vaccination."
As for the concerns members have with the mandatory vaccine pass, Professor Paul C. Ananaba, Barrister and Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Western Nigeria, addressed the issue during his presentation titled, "Where Is My Freedom Of Conscience?". He said, "In the case of the COVID-19 vaccination and other accompanying protocols, the state is acting not only to protect the individual, but also others who may come into contact with the individual. The individual's freedom of conscience is in this case a threat and ultimately an infringement of the fundamental rights of others. The state has a duty to intervene."
To conclude those rich discussions, Pastor Steven Norman III, Southern Union Conference Communications Director in the North American Division presented the topic, "The Mark of the Beast: Is it the Covid-19 Vaccine ?" In a powerful way, the man of God dispelled the clouds in the minds. "The Mark of the Beast and the Seal of God are related to worship. Those who receive the Seal of God are those who "keep the commandments of God and [have] the faith of Jesus Christ." Do not be deceived by the lures of Satan. God loves you. He wants to save you, that's why he gave His only Son to die on a cruel cross. He also gave you prophecy to protect you from deception. Let us study the Word of God so that we can be protected from conspiracy theories." To this message Njoku Ugochukwu reacts: "Thank you very much, God, thank you Pastor! This message is indeed a blessing to me."
Some people, like Lea Parker may say, "The Bible is clear on the Mark of the Beast." Others like Bigishaya wonder if "the restrictions imposed in some countries are a decoy of the Beast to test the waters and gradually introduce the Mark of the Beast." As for Eden, the skepticism can be read in her words, "don't go get vaccinated just because a leader tells you to, he can be bribed by the big lobby behind those vaccines."
Towards the end of the presentations, Pastor Elie Weick-Dido, WAD President, thanked the speakers. He said at the end: "With this conference, we are equipped. I would like to thank the speakers for their insights.” During this conference, time was also allowed to pray and intercede for those persecuted because of their faith. Pastor Kingsley Anonaba, Executive Secretary of DAO, Pastor Emmanuel Manu, Treasurer of DAO and Pastor Thomas Techie Ocran, President of the Southern Ghana Union Conference were the instruments that carried these requests. The hope of all is placed in God who alone can stem the tide of this virus and restore calm.