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Religious news from around the world.

Religious news from around the world.

Bible conference in East-Central Africa Division

Muhanga, Rwanda—The Inter­national Bible Conference for East-Central Africa Division (ECD) met on the campus of Gahogo Adventist Academy, December 8–11, 20Y31Ma*'Tha1F500 delegates rep­resenting 11 countries in the ECD including theologians, Bible teach­ers, pastors, administrators, and lay workers attended this important conference. The theme was “Pastoral Ministry and Its Challenges in ECD. The conference provided an opportu­nity for interaction, fellowshiping, and experiencing a renewal and sense of belonging.

The Honorable James Musoni, min­ister for local governments in Rwanda, officially opened the conference as a guest of honor. The minister recognized the importance of pastoral leadership and the contribution this has in nurtur­ing members and shaping citizens and the governments. In his speech,  he said, [As leaders our destiny is determined by our values, and these are based on our habits and actions. Leaders must be ready to inspire people and make sure that people move to another level of devel­opment. You also need to know that leadership is not about division but action. As leaders you must dream and take action.”

Facilitators included Ganoune Diop, the Adventist Church’s director of United Nations Relations and associate director for Public Affairs and Religious Liberty; Pat Gustin, retired teacher and missionary trainer; Willie E. Hucks II, associate ministerial secretary for the General Conference and associate editor of Ministry; Kwabena Donkor and Clinton Wahlen, associate directors of the church’s Biblical Research Institute; Paul Mukasa, director of research and development at Ethiopia Adventist College; and Andrew Mutero, education director for the ECD.

[Steve Bina, ECD]

The work in mongolia celebrates 20 years

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia—Adventists in Mongolia celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first Adventist baptism in Mongolia in modern times during a ceremony in November 2013 at the Central Ulaanbaatar Adventist Church. The program featured music and testimonies from some of the first converts. Though Russian missionarites first launched work in Mongolia in the 1920s, World War II stopped the work until Adventist missionaries went to Mongolia in 1993.

 

Adventist Church sides with Muslim woman in workplace religious freedom case

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States—The Seventh-day Adventist Church, on December 11, 2013, filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief in support of an American Muslim woman who claims she was denied a job because her head covering violated company policy.

In 2008, Samantha Elauf wore a hijab when she applied for a sales position at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States (US). After a manager confirmed that her headwear crossed store policy, she was deemed ineligible for hire without discussion of religious accommodation.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed a lawsuit on Elaufla behalf, said the move defies Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The title obligates employers to take steps to “reasonably accom­modateE a prospective employee’s “religious observance or practice.”

While a federal judge sided with the EEOC in 2011, a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upends that decision, claiming Elauf never told Abercrombie she needed a religious accommodation, even though she was wearing a hijab in the interview. And that, Adventist legal counselors say, places undue responsibility on the applicant to determine whether her religious beliefs or practices conflict with company policy.

“Placing the burden to inquire [about potential conflicts] upon the employer is not only the existing law, but makes sense because the employer is in the best position to know the work rules and anticipate a conflict,” the amicus brief states.

Dwayne Leslie, director for Legislative Affairs for the Adventist world church, said the circuit court’s ruling sets a troubling precedent.

“Under the Tenth Circuit’s new standard, employers would be able to insulate themselves from the duty to accommodate via willful ignorance [of the religious needs of employees],” Leslie wrote in a December 12 Huffington Post op-ed.

Religious clothing and the obser­vance of Sabbath and other holy days are the most common areas of conflict in the workplace, church legal experts said. Hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes, and other head coverings frequently conflict with a company’s “look” policy, while Sabbath observance can clash with scheduling.

This is especially a concern as the number of online job applications increase, said Todd McFarland, an associate general counsel for the Adventist world church’s Office of General Counsel.

Such applications typically require a job seeker to indicate scheduling limi­tations but do not offer an opportunity to explain why. When applicants submit limitations, they are automatically shut out of the job.

“This [ruling] could have a sig­nificant impact, not just on Muslims in similar ‘groom and garb’ cases, but on all people of faith,” McFarland said. “Any attack on religious rights in the workplace on any faith group is also an attack on the Adventist Church, its members, and their ability to keep both their jobs and their faith,” he says.

The Adventist Church is joined by the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Legal Society, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the American Jewish Committee, and the Sikh Coalition. The joint amicus brief supports the EEOC and Elauf©petition for rehearing en banc, or before the entire bench of judges, rather than a select panel.

“There is tremendous concern well beyond the Muslim community about the weakening of Title VII that will take place if this ruling is to stand,” Leslie said.

Abercrombie & Fitch changed its policy on headwear three years ago. The Ohio-based company recently settled similar lawsuits in California, the Associated Press reported in October. An Abercrombie spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

[Elizabeth LechleitnedANN]

Marking 100 years in cyprus

Nicosia, Cyprus—Seventh-day Adventists in Nicosia, Cyprus, cel­ebrated the centenary of the arrival of Adventism to the island on December 6, 2013. A Turkish refugee and his family first shared the Adventist message in Cyprus in 1913 through their comb-making business. Not until 1932 did the first official Adventist missionaries arrive in Cyprus.

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March 2014

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