Middle East Meeting Promotes “Adventist Diplomacy”

Religious liberty leaders commit to be "community builders," "people-helpers," and "peacemakers"

For Seventh-day Adventist “diplomats” who gathered last week in Beirut, Lebanon, the political upheavals sweeping the Middle East in recent weeks lent an even greater sense of urgency to their discussions.

“Keeping peace and building good relations with others have always played a vital role in facilitating the church’s mission around the world,” said Dr. John Graz, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) for the Adventist Church. “But today, as we’re witnessing how rapidly the social and political landscape can change, I believe the task of Adventist diplomats has never been more important.”

The meeting drew together PARL directors from across the church’s Trans-European Division—a region that encompasses 41 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. They met February 22 to 26 at the church’s newly renovated Middle Eastern University, a 72-year-old institution whose campus overlooks both Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea.

Speakers at the event included Dr. Graz, along with Dr. Delbert Baker, a world church vice-president and PARL advisor, and attorney Barry Bussey, the church’s director of United Nations Relations.

Dr. Baker spoke about the essential characteristics of an effective Adventist diplomat, which he said included living “an open, Christ-centered life,” being a “people-helper and community builder,” “a learner of culture,” and “an outgoing, open-minded networker.”

Mr. Bussey later paid tribute to event organizer Raafat Kamal, PARL director for the Trans-European Division, his administrative assistant Esti Pujic, and to host Kjell Aune, the Adventist Church’s Middle East Union director.

“Given the troubles that Lebanon has had in the past, it was a testament to the benefits of peace to be able to meet here and discuss religious freedom,” said Bussey. “Adventist diplomacy did not simply become a slogan—it became real to our leaders as we all recognized our duty to be true to our conscience and share the incredible benefits that blesses every nation that embraces this freedom.” [PARL Staff]