Worldwide, about 360 million Christians suffer persecution and discrimination because of their faith. This represents one in seven Christians. The data are from the annual report of Open Doors International, an institute that monitors the condition of persecuted Christians worldwide.
The research also points out that the cases of murder of Christians because of their faith increased from 4,761 in 2021 to 5,898 in 2022. Arrests have also increased. Compared to the same period, there has been a 44-percent increase.
It is worth noting that the persecution rates recorded by Open Doors are steadily rising. The level of persecution in the latest survey is the highest since the first survey was conducted 29 years ago.
As a secular state, Brazil is protected by the Federal Constitution, which guarantees as a fundamental right the freedom of conscience and belief, being assured to every human being the free exercise of religious services and, according to the law, the protection to places of worship and their liturgies.
Given this scenario, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America promotes religious freedom widely in order to foster dialogue on the subject. One of these initiatives occurred on May 15–17, 2023, with the National Congress of Religious Freedom (Freedom 25), which took place at Associação Paulistana, the church’s administrative headquarters located in Brooklin, São Paulo.
In the congress, 100 practical ideas on religious freedom were proposed, in several areas, to be worked on until 2025.
The event trained and mobilized students, pastors, and volunteer leaders to promote, defend, and protect religious freedom, besides promoting 25 specific themes in five areas: church, society, state, work, and education. The themes approached the subject in the context of the racial-ethnic challenge, human rights, bioethics, media, environment, hate culture, Adventism, politics, schools, and family, among others.
Through the themes discussed, the congress sought, over the three days, to promote peace and respect. The lectures were broadcast live on the Adventist Church's official YouTube channel, and the panels on the specific themes were given by specialists through Zoom, including interaction and debate with the participants (the panels were recorded and will soon be available on the same channel to the public of interest).
The live-streamed lectures were conducted by authorities such as: Minister Maria Cláudia Bucchianeri, of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE); John Graz, former secretary-general of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA); Bill Knott, associate director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Adventist World Church; Luigi Braga, general counsel of Adventist institutions in South America; and Stéfanne Ortelan, assistant general counsel of the Adventist Church's South American headquarters.
In her speech about religious freedom and the state, Bucchianeri evidenced that it is possible, on the part of the public power, to make possible the respect for the rights of those who profess any faith. "The Constitution does not allow anyone to be deprived of rights because of their religious confession," she argued.
Graz stated that about 75 percent of the world's population lives in regions where this right does not exist. At Freedom 25, he administered the topic in the context of society. "These people are discriminated against because of their religion. This is a point that hasn't changed yet, and I'm not sure it will change in the future. This is why it is so important to talk about it, and Brazil is one of the best countries to debate this issue," Graz commented.
For Heron Santana, one of the organizers of the congress and director of the Religious Liberty Department of the Adventist Church for the states of Bahia and Sergipe, the event dealt with the "religious liberty of the streets," as it manifests itself in the marital relationship, the vulnerability of others, and the relationship of the church with the community. "The realization of this congress was a dream. Freedom 25 brought us the possibility to look at the religious freedom that leaves the structures, leaves the theory and inserts itself in people's lives," he pointed out.
You can watch the lectures given during the congress on the YouTube channel @adventistasbrasil.