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Adventists in Brazil Mark State Religious Freedom Day

Seventh-day Adventists in Brazil celebrated May 25—Religious Freedom Day in the State of São Paulo—with a fast-paced agenda of events and high-level protocol visits. Dr. Ganoune Diop, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Adventist world church, was a special guest and speaker at the celebrations, which began May 24 with visits to civic and judicial leaders.

An Adventist delegation met with Marcio França, governor of the State of São Paulo, which, with 45 million people, is Brazil’s most populous state. The group also met with judges of the State Court, and with Eduardo Tuma, vice-mayor of the city of São Paulo, the largest metropolitan area in South America.

Pastor Helio Carnassale, PARL director for the South American Division, said these visits were intended to thank public authorities for their support for religious freedom. “We wanted, also, to reaffirm the willingness of Seventh-day Adventists to cooperate with established governments to help maintain religious freedom for all,” said Carnassale.

Lawyers and religious freedom experts gathered May 25 for a Religious Liberty Forum held in the great auditorium of the City Council of São Paulo. The event was organized by Adventist lawyer Damaris Moura Kuo, president of the Brazilian Lawyer Association (OAB) Commission on Human Rights and Religious Liberty.

Dr. Diop gave the keynote address, saying that human dignity is foundational to the idea of religious freedom. “Religious freedom is constitutionally protected in Brazil and is defended by public institutions,” said Diop. “But there is more to religious freedom than meets the eye. The sine qua non of religious liberty is acceptance of the reality that we are all one humanity. From this sense of human solidarity flows inclusion, respect for all people, acceptance of differences, and a commitment to uphold the dignity of others.”

On Sabbath, May 26, religious freedom advocates fanned out to Adventist churches across São Paulo to preach about religious freedom and mission. In all, special religious liberty sermons were preached in 43 congregations—a record number for the division. Most of the speakers were laypeople and members of FORLIR (Regional Forum of Religious Liberty) a group created by the South American Division to help promote the concept of religious freedom in Adventist Churches. The special Sabbath was organized by attorney Samuel Luz, president of Brazilian Central Union's FORLIR.

The weekend concluded on Sunday with a seminar for Adventist lawyers—members of FORLIR—which was held at the headquarters of the East Paulista Conference. Dr. Diop and Pr. Carnassale challenged attendees to continue finding innovative ways to promote and defend religious freedom, and to share Adventist values in the public realm. Attorney Alcides Coimbra, PARL Director of the São Paulo Union, was a key organizer of this event, as well as many other parts of the weekend celebrations.

[Special thanks for this report to the South American Division PARL department and Dr. Helio Carnassale. Photos courtesy of SAD PARL]

BETTINA KRAUSE | Communication director
International Religious Liberty Association
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