Adventists in Guatemala Called to be ‘People of Influence’

In the beautiful Central American nation of Guatemala, Seventh-day Adventists are finding new ways to represent God in the public realm.

Seventh-day Adventists in Guatemala held their first-ever Public Affairs and Religious Liberty congress aimed at amplifying the church’s presence and voice in the community. General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director Dr. Ganoune Diop was one of the keynote speakers at the event, and he appealed to church members to be intentional in reaching out to civic leaders.

Drawing on the lives of biblical “ambassadors”—including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah—Diop urged Adventists to step outside their own faith community, to mingle with others, and to take a positive message of God’s values into the public realm.

“Throughout history, God has called individuals to represent him before kings, pharaohs, and governors; to reach out to people of influence and to share God’s purpose to those in the highest levels of government,” said Diop. “Our mission as a church is comprehensive. It extends to all parts of society, including the public space—we have no excuse not to associate with everyone, from secular politicians, to leaders of other faith groups, to other thought leaders in our communities.”

Guatemala, a country of more than 16 million people, faces many social challenges, including widespread poverty and vast disparities in the distribution of wealth. More than 70 percent of the nation’s children live in abject poverty, with many suffering sicknesses related to malnutrition. Yet a tiny fraction of Guatemalans—less than 300 individuals—control almost 60 percent of the country’s wealth. The differences are even more stark for indigenous Guatemalans, who face discrimination and deeply entrenched poverty.

In a Sabbath afternoon presentation to a group of Adventist lawyers, Diop said that religious freedom is much more than a philosophical construct or principal of international law.

“As followers of Christ, you have an additional motivation to promote religious liberty, because freedom is a fundamental attribute of the character of God,” said Diop. He also said that, in a country that continues to struggle with public corruption, Adventist lawyers must be “agents of God’s integrity.”

“You have a higher calling—to be representatives of God in your nation’s courts,” he said.

The religious liberty weekend was organized by Pastor Guenther Garcia, president of the Guatemala Union Mission. Pastor James Daniel, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Inter-American Division, was also a speaker at the event. There are some 250,000 Adventist Church members in Guatemala, worshipping in almost 1,000 congregations. [Photos courtesy of Inter-American Division]

BETTINA KRAUSE | Communication director
International Religious Liberty Association
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