Freedom 25 Congress Discusses Actions in Favor of Religious Freedom

South American Division

Freedom 25 Congress Discusses Actions in Favor of Religious Freedom

"When we understand the mission of the church … we understand the need to defend and promote religious freedom," sais journalist Heron Santana, director of the Adventist Church's PARL department in Bahia and Sergipe.

Religious Liberty | Brazil | Jefferson Paradello

If you do not yet have defined goals for 2025, the National Congress of Religious Freedom (“Freedom 25”) is an opportunity to help you get involved in initiatives that strengthen the rights of belief and respect for the different manifestations of faith throughout Brazil. The event, held in São Paulo on May 15–17, discussed 100 practical ideas on the subject to be carried out in the following two years.

The actions are linked to Agenda 25, which are areas that seek to expand the understanding of and rights to religious freedom, which consequently is reflected in protection and benefits for people who embrace and those who do not embrace beliefs of a spiritual nature. To discuss the issues, there is a list of authorities from the country and abroad.

Among them are Minister Maria Claudia Bucchianeri, of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), and Dr. John Graz, former secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA).

Freedom 25 is an initiative of three administrative headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in collaboration with the South American Division. Amid other objectives, it seeks to bring the displays of this issue to the members of the local churches. 

"We want to keep alive in every heart the fundamental, historical, and active role we have as a denomination in terms of defending this right, including the right not to believe. This is a fundamental issue for Seventh-day Adventists, and it is necessary to instruct, educate, and sensitize people so that it is increasingly present in our daily lives and guarantee, not only our freedom, but that of everyone," emphasizes Pastor Luis Mario Pinto, vice president and director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department for the South American Division.

To this end, during the meeting, topics such as religious freedom and racial and ethical challenges, religious freedom and bioethics, religious freedom and the Sabbath, and religious freedom and military service, among others, were discussed—all contemplated by Agenda 25. The practical ideas to be implemented until 2025 are born from these areas. They include actions such as creating viral videos to raise awareness about racism, provoking academic attention to bioethics and religious freedom, producing and promoting an article on the Sabbath as a response to burnout, climate crisis, and digital addiction, and encouraging and supporting the creation of local military groups dedicated to promoting and defending religious freedom in their respective corporations.

A Wide-Ranging Discussion

"When we understand the mission of the church, which is to preach the Gospel to the whole world, we understand the need to defend and promote religious freedom. It ensures that that message goes forward—that it is carried to every nation, tribe, tongue and people. Freedom 25, therefore, was created to direct the eyes of leaders—people of influence in society—to not only meet the need to guarantee this freedom, but especially to expand ways to do so," says journalist Heron Santana, director of the Adventist Church's PARL department for the states of Bahia and Sergipe and one of the meeting's organizers.

Although the event took place in the city of São Paulo, the presentations will be broadcast in full on the Seventh-day Adventist Church's official YouTube channel. And the panels on specific topics were restricted to the Zoom application, allowing the exchange of ideas among participants.

The possibility to debate, dialogue, and build collectively was one of the main objectives of the meeting. Therefore, it was aimed at students, pastors, lawyers, legal professionals, and volunteer leaders to promote, defend, and protect religious freedom. In addition, there was the intention to stimulate academic productions on the subject to integrate symposiums, congresses, and other modalities in the future, thus broadening the scope of the subject.

"It is not just a congress. It is a project to present practical tools and effective actions of vital importance for the church," observes Pastor Odailson Fonseca, PARL director for the State of São Paulo. "It also propels us forward and points to the protagonism of the church." 

Registration was free at the official site of the congress, agenda25.com. Participants also received certificates issued by the São Paulo Adventist University Center (UNASP). Other information about speakers and details of Agenda 25 are also on the same site.

"Freedom 25 is a large movement of people interested in dialoguing about religious freedom as something superior to a religious privilege. We want to note how it manifests itself in the various interfaces of life—in society, at work, in the school environment, and also in the church—how it manifests itself in people's daily lives," says attorney Alysson Galvão, PARL director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the Northeast Brazil Union.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Spanish-language news site.