“Silence in the face of evil is not neutrality, it’s complicity.”1 Proponents of human rights and justice, the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) department of the General Conference (GC) of Seventh-Day Adventists is anything but complacent. With enduring commitment, PARL works endlessly as a beacon of peace, advocating for religious liberty throughout the global community. PARL “serves as a department of foreign affairs,” said Director of PARL, Ganoune Diop. It “seeks to provide the Seventh-day Adventist church with visibility, credibility, trust, and relevance in the public space which includes people of influence, government officials, and decision makers.”
In partnership with church departments, community leaders, lawmakers, state leaders, public officials, national institutions like the United Nations, and PARL leaders in the 13 church divisions throughout the world, PARL is also an active advocate for public policy issues. Several issues include health, education, environmental conservation, women and children’s rights, the rights of prisoners, aid, and development. In addition, they focus on promoting the good reputation of the mission and identity of the Adventist church.
On Thursday afternoon, at the 61st GC Session in St. Louis, Missouri, PARL hosted a luncheon to “strengthen relationships between PARL directors and engage with public officials and key religious leaders,” said PARL Associate Director Jennifer Woods. Special guests who were present and acknowledged at the luncheon, representing some of the meaningful connections PARL has made with influential representatives across the globe were the Secretary of the Global Christian Forum Dr. Casely Essamuah, Salvation Army Representative Colonel Kenneth Johnson, Baptist World Alliance Representative Rev. Everton Jackson, Adventist Senator Damaris Moura Kuo from Brazil, Adventist member of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Zambia the Honorable Palan Mulonda, Adventist Retired Senator the Honorable Floyd Morris from Jamaica, and Adventist Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Bienvenido V. Tejano.
In his opening remarks to attendees, President of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, Ted N.C. Wilson stated, “What a privilege for Seventh-Day Adventists and other Christians to be epistles of Christ, representatives of the highest Authority of the universe”. He later elaborated that faithful service and representation of Christ involves the constant battle for religious freedom, justice, and liberty of conscience.
Though not a simple task, many have supported PARL in this endeavor. As a result, Diop awarded several individuals for their “choice to serve in the public arena,” acknowledging their “commitment and conviction to advocating for religious liberty.”
The individuals awarded were Wilson, recently retired PARL Director for the Inter-American Division James Daniel, GC General Counsel and International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) Legal Advisor Karnik Doukmetzian, Former PARL Director for the South American Division Dr. Helio Carnassale, and GC Associate Treasurer Daisy Orion. Senator Damaris Moura Kuo was also acknowledged for her work in promoting religious liberty and her help in passing the first religious freedom legislation in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
PARL is not only an advocate for human rights but is also a light in the world. Wilson reminded attendees, “As we understand the aspects of dealing with religious leaders and government officials, it is a great privilege for each of us to not only officially represent our church but in a more personal way, to actually be a living letter written by God as a commendation to all who we meet.” He added, “Each of us are ambassadors for Christ.”
PARL strives to be an active representation of the love of Christ to the world. In fact, through its collaboration with other divisions, PARL has managed to play an influential role in the liberation of imprisoned Adventists worldwide. “We strive to position the church as a credible blessing to the world. Without credibility, the world will not listen to us,” said Diop. Diop elaborated further, “We are part of a movement that is preparing the world and the church for the second coming of Christ. For this reason, showing what the church can offer the world is at the heart of my passion.”
The fight for peace, justice, and religious liberty is not meant to be fought by PARL alone, it is to be the mission of the World Church as a response to God’s command in Isaiah 58 to “shout aloud against the exploitation of the vulnerable.”2 In his concluding remarks, Diop passionately exhorted, “Wherever God places you, remember that you are connected with the One who is superior – the Creator of heaven and earth. He has placed you where you are to bless others.”
For more information on PARL, to become involved, and to learn how their work can help you, visit https://www.adventistliberty.org.