India’s U.S. ambassador and deputy head of mission were welcomed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters on Jan. 4. Ambassadors Ronen Sen and Raminder Singh Jassal of India were guests of church leaders, including Pastor Jan Paulsen, world church president, who soon will visit India again.
During a private meeting and a protocol luncheon, both visitors and hosts spoke on common themes of societal development.
“While we are a confessional community, we also are very much involved in the wider community,” Paulsen commented. “We have a strong emphasis on education, and our health program is a signal as to the value we place on the healthy quality of life. We serve the community without favoritism, and reaffirm out intent to be of service to the people of India.”
Paulsen commended India’s leaders for “reaching out to all members of society and holding together such a conglomerate people with fairness and freedom,” adding that he looked forward with anticipation to his next visit to the nation.
Approximately one in every 1,100 people in India is a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, according to church statistics. Church membership has grown rapidly in recent years, bringing an increase in Adventist schools and medical services that serve tens of thousands of people. After the 2004 tsunami, Adventists were among those reaching out to victims along India’s coastal cities.
In his response, Ambassador Sen noted that “Christianity is as Indian as any Indian religion,” having been brought to India in the first century. He then spoke of his appreciation for the opportunity to visit, stating “in this very short time I have benefited from this interaction.” Admitting the challenges facing a nation as large and diverse as India, he affirmed, “What keeps us sane is the essence of our civilization heritage and our respect for differences, especially in religious beliefs. I hope that by our very existence we disprove the ‘clash of civilizations’ idea. We prefer the dialogue of civilizations and celebrate the richness of diversity in all its forms.”
He also stated “the work of the Adventist Church is greatly appreciated,” and that any problems that might exist would be met “by our resilience to overcome. We too believe in making life better, in lifting people from poverty, giving them a sense of dignity, while also respecting and celebrating diversity.” Ambassador Sen concluded with the assurance that Pastor Paulsen’s upcoming visit would be “warmly received.”