What We Do
The Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department maintains relations with governments and international organizations. It represents the world church in meeting officials around the world and monitoring the state of religious freedom. In this work, the Department works closely with the General Conference President and appropriate commissions. Under the supervision of the General Conference Protocol Committee, the PARL Department organizes the visits of heads of state, government ministers, ambassadors and other officials to the world headquarters and during the General Conference world session and other church meetings.
Seventh-day Adventists have been active at the United Nations since its inception. Adventist leaders Dr. Jean Nussbaum and Dr. Bert Beach met with American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to discuss religious freedom issues at the founding of the UN. Dr. Gianfranco Rossi represented the church to the United Nations for many years and was involved in the wording of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
Today Dr. Nelu Burcea represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the UN in both New York and Geneva. The primary focus of the church’s efforts is religious freedom for all, though the church is also active in a number of other areas. The Adventist Church maintains an office across the street from the United Nations headquarters in New York, and Dr. Burcea attends the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland to represent Church views.
The OLA is located on Capitol Hill in a building adjacent to the U.S. Supreme Court. This office, directed by attorney Dwayne Leslie, has a mandate to keep watch over the political, legal, and executive developments in U.S. public policy. Given the current context, US Policy has world-wide implications for religious freedom. The OLA organizes the annual Religious Liberty Dinner which attracts politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, and the diplomatic community over the issue of religious freedom in the US and internationally.
The PARL Department has the task of representing the world church to other religious bodies. This includes representation at the conference of secretaries of the Christian world communions and other inter church and inter faith meetings. The PARL Director, Dr. Ganoune Diop is also the secretary of the General Conference Council for Inter-church and Inter-faith relations and is responsible for the logistics of dialogues or conversations with other churches or faiths, and meetings with religious leaders. While these conversations and relationships are important in helping others understand who Adventists are and what we believe, talks such as these should not be misconstrued as compromising Adventist doctrines or practice.
International Religious Liberty Association
The International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) had its beginnings in 1889 at an Adventist meeting in Battle Creek, Michigan. There, 110 church leaders chartered a new association to promote and defend religious freedom. Since that time, this association has changed and developed, but its primary goal as remained the same--to be a presence in the public realm as a distinctive voice for religious liberty. Since 1946, the IRLA membership has been open to non-church members, and today it has supporters and members from a range of religions and beliefs. Each of the world church's 13 divisions has its own regional association that is affiliated with the IRLA, and there are a number of national associations, also.
Although the IRLA has deep roots within Adventism, it is important to note that it is an independent, non-sectarian association. The PARL staff at the General Conference world headquarters work for the IRLA, but they do so as volunteers. All IRLA events--including the World Congress for Religious Freedom that the IRLA organizes every five years--are public events, rather than church events.
Through the years, the IRLA has continued to speak out against religious intolerance and persecution, and has made a substantial contribution to the scholarly discourse about religious freedom. You can find out more about the IRLA and its work by visiting its website at www.irla.org.
Every year, the PARL department publishes a global survey of religious freedom, looking at each country and territory recognized by the United Nations. The purpose of the World Report is to draw on the unique experience of the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world in order to produce an annual “snap-shot” of the religious freedom environment—constitutional, legal, and social—of every country and territory recognized by the United Nations.
This provides a useful resource not only for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but also for governments and NGOs who can benefit from first-hand insights provided by Adventists who are operating within these jurisdictions. Access current and past editions of the World Report here.
The GC PARL department, in partnership with Liberty magazine and the General Conference, has organized an annual Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington, D.C. for more than a decade. Although this event has a national focus—the White House, Washington’s diplomatic corps, and members of the United States Congress—this concept can be adapted for almost any other context. Whether your focus is nation-wide, state-wide or even city-wide, a Religious Liberty Dinner can be an effective means of raising the profile of the Adventist Church and highlighting its commitment to religious freedom.
In establishing a regular Religious Liberty Dinner, your goals may be to:
- Provide an opportunity for people of different beliefs to meet each other on the theme of religious freedom.
- Increase awareness about the rising rate of persecution in the world, or to focus on a specific religious liberty challenge.
- Offer people a positive image of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a human rights defender for all.
- Make friends who share the same values, and to improve visibility of the Adventist Church.