South Pacific Religious Liberty Leaders Chart Future Course

Leaders discuss plans for major 2014 Festival of Religious Freedom in Papua New Guinea

Religious liberty leaders in the South Pacific are developing a strong, wide-ranging strategy to meet the diverse challenges to freedom in their region, says Dr. John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist world church.  Dr. Graz, along with associate PARL director, Dr. Ganoune Diop, led out in the two-day training seminar last month in Sydney, Australia. The event, held August 28 and 29 at the South Pacific church headquarters, was the first of its kind to be held in the region in the past two decades.

“This is a territory that embraces both the post-modern, secular societies of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the islands of the South Pacific, many of which are struggling economically and politically, and some which don’t have strongly established traditions of religious freedom,” says Dr. Graz. “But in spite of the vast range of challenges they face, our religious liberty leaders in the South Pacific are knowledgeable, committed, and moving forward with plans to advance the cause of freedom.”

Participants brought reports about specific challenges in their territories and discussed ways to advocate more effectively with lawmakers and thought leaders. They also discussed initial plans for a major Festival of Religious Freedom to be held in Papua New Guinea in 2014, which Dr. Graz says would have “tremendous potential to generate publicity and support” for religious freedom.

The Sydney training event was hosted by Dr. Brad Kemp, associate general secretary of the South Pacific Division and the church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Liaison. Four union presidents attended: Pastors Waisea Vunima, Trans-Pacific Union Mission, Ken Vogel, Australian Union Conference, Leigh Rice, Papua New Guinea Union Mission, and Jerry Matthews, New Zealand Pacific Union Conference. [IRLA Staff]