January 21, 2023, was Religious Liberty Day. A day that celebrates the freedom to worship and practice one's faith. Why should this matter to the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
Many may not have heard of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) department of the General Conference (GC). Yet, this department, like all the rest, is very important. Ganoune Diop, PARL director describes its purpose as “the church’s ministry of public affairs". It promotes religious liberty for everyone, regardless of their beliefs, and it encourages the Church to be an active advocate and defender of this freedom for all.
“Religious liberty is a gift from God to all humanity,” shares Diop. He adds, “It is a compound freedom. At times it's reduced to personal entitlement, yet, it includes much more. Such as freedom of thought, of conscience, of choice, of assembly, of association. This is a universal value; promoting freedom is promoting the dignity of every person.”
What does PARL do?
Diop shares, “Our work is a proactive engagement with all institutions of society. Without compromise.” Through PARL’s interactions, “[We] show the distinctiveness of our identity [and] our mission which is to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
PARL also creates awareness of the Church’s portfolio of services by creating good relations with various organizations. These include international organizations such as the United Nations, non-governmental associations, and governments. It shares with them how the Church is a blessing to society.
PARL attends UN councils and various interfaith and public functions to help them understand who the Church is and what it does. PARL also organizes a yearly Religious Liberty Dinner on Capitol Hill where American and international religious freedom is discussed and promoted.
PARL’s leaders within the Church’s 13 divisions, each union and conference, and many local churches, interact and mediate for the Church with people and organizations of influence in the public sector. PARL shows the world that the Adventist Church is not at the fringe of Christianity. Rather, it is a genuine Christian denomination with a mission to share Christ’s love with the world.
Within the Church it informs on the importance of religious liberty through various publications and reports on their website. It also advocates on their behalf. PARL believes nobody should suffer injustice or persecution because of one’s religion. It mediates on behalf of Adventists facing oppression because of Sabbath observance. It also mediates for imprisoned Adventists across the globe. According to Diop, PARL had recently been in communication with two separate governments, advocating for a man who was wrongly imprisoned. PARL’s efforts contributed to his liberation, and it’s currently having him relocated to another country for his safety.
Why should I be a Proponent of Religious Liberty?
Joining the efforts of PARL should be the mission of every Seventh-day Adventist. Diop maintains, “The name of God is inseparable from the concept of freedom. Freedom is born in the being of God. We're created in the image of God, and if God is free, we're also created to be free. By defending freedom, we contribute to the restoration of the image of God in human beings. If a person loses freedom of conscience, they lose their humanity.”
Every church member should be encouraged to become an ambassador of religious freedom and public affairs. Everyone can partake at a local and personal level. All have a local sphere of influence they can engage with. Diop says, “Inside the church, everyone should be an ambassador of freedom. Championing freedom because freedom of choice is necessary for our covenant with God.”
Church members who are unsure of how to become a church ambassador can follow PARL’s guide. Members can create a committee for the promotion of religious liberty in their church or school. They can partner with local organizations already advocating for this cause. They can even create a blog or use social media to help educate others on the championing of freedom and truth.
Defending and promoting religious liberty for all can be done in our day-to-day lives. God’s gift of freedom is for all. We cannot properly embrace God without freedom because love is impossible without freedom. God does not want robots; coercion and force are not His way. God’s way is to allow everyone the right to freedom of conscience. May the Holy Spirit guide the Church throughout the fulfillment of this mission.
For more information on PARL, how to become a church ambassador, or gain access to the department’s publications and resources, visit https://www.adventistliberty.org.