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Third Meeting of Conscience and Liberty

For the third consecutive year, the conference Conscience and Liberty was held in Lisbon, Portugal on November 27, 2014.  It was promoted by the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty, an institution supported by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in association with the Science of Religion area of the Lusofona University and the Religious Liberty Committee.

This time, the chosen theme for reflection on the fundamental right of religious liberty was “Religious Liberty Today: Opportunities in Portugal, Challenges in the World”. This generic theme was chosen because of the analysis made by the Association on the time we are living and on the state of the religious liberty, in Portugal and in the world.
Though, in Portugal, we find in latest years a good understanding among religions and tolerance towards the difference, being as it is, a time of opportunity with the enforcement of one of the most open legislations on religious liberty in the world, out there, in this smaller and smaller world, the time causes fright and perplexity.

As honored guests for this initiative, there were two speakers, each one taking charge of the two aspects of the conference.  Dr. Joao Lobo, Deputy and member of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Liberty and Privileges of the Parliament, presented the subject: “Relationship between State and Religious Denominations in View of the Portuguese Law. The experience of the Religious Liberty Law.” In his presentation, Deputy Joao Lobo explained the main axes of the Religious Liberty Law, Law 16/2001, and spoke of the new opportunities open to the minority churches in Portugal, either in the relationship with the State, or in the insertion in the social reality of the country.

Then, at the conference, there followed the intervention of Professor Ganoune Diop, Associate Director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the IRLA (International Religious Liberty Association) at the United Nations, with the subject: “An Extended Normative Consensus on Human Dignity: A Foundation for the Human Rights and for the Fundamental Liberties.” 

According to Professor Diop, religious liberty, as other universal and inalienable rights, has as its foundation the principle of human dignity, which is, basic in the construction of the thinking of all civilizations, cultures and religions that value the human being. Emphasizing, as an example, Article 1 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic – which designates human dignity as a founder constitutional principle – the speaker mentioned the respect for this foundation as a desirable possibility of tolerance, understanding and fraternity, in society and among different peoples.

This meeting was chaired by Dr. Fernando Soares Loja, President in charge of the Religious Liberty Committee, and Dr. Paulo Mendes Pinto, responsible for the Area of Science of Religions at Lusofona University, was also present at the event.  This was also the moment for the delivery of the prize and presentation of the winning work of the II Conscience and Liberty Award. The prized author, Dr. Susana Machado, jurist and university teacher, presented her work: “Of the Right for the Worker to Keep Periods of Rest Imposed by the Religion He Professes”. The jury justified their decision by the quality and the contribution to the theme and reflection on the religious liberty brought by the work. According to the author, “it is a critical reflection useful to the promotion of equality, diversity and tolerance in a society more and more plural in the domain of religion, where the work has a prominent place in the individuals’ life.”
For the Religious Liberty and Public Affairs Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portugal and for the AIDLR leadership, this was another opportunity, well used and extremely useful, to bring the theme of religious liberty into debate and analysis, in a profound and balanced way and above current news, as well as to provide to people of different origins and beliefs a conjunction of wills with the defense and promotion of the religious liberty and the valuing of the human rights as a factor of union.

This conference fitted in the visit to Portugal of the Associate Director of the Religious Liberty and Public Affairs Department of the GC, Professor Ganoune Diop. During this visit, Pastor Diop was responsible for the spiritual moments of the Portuguese Union Pastors’ Convention, in which he highlighted the importance of knowing the reality and the cultural and religious context in the fulfillment of the Mission entrusted to us. He was also the main speaker at the event presented in this news and had the opportunity, through productive meetings with government officials, to support the work made by the Church in Portugal, in the area of religious liberty and public affairs.

Paulo Sérgio Macedo
Director, Religious Liberty and Public Affairs Department
of the Portuguese Union of Seventh-day Adventists
Chairman of the Direction of the AIDLR-Pt