Moscow conference highlights rising religious extremism
Moscow, Russia—The Third International Forum on Religion and Peace, held October 29, 2015, was jointly organized by Russia’s Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Organizations and Moscow’s department of National Policy, Inter-Regional Relations, and Tourism. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was represented by Ganoune Diop, director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) department for the General Conference, and Oleg Goncharov, PARL director for the Adventist Church’s Euro-Asia Division.
In his address to the assembly, Diop focused on the foundational place of religious freedom within the pantheon of human rights. He emphasized that this is a God-given right, not one subject to political agendas, and he urged all those present to work together to preserve and extend this “first freedom.” On the day before the forum, Diop and Goncharov visited the State Duma, or legislature, to meet with various public officials responsible for church-state relations in Russia. They also met with Alexander Kudryavtsev, who heads one of Russia’s most active public organizations focused on religious liberty, the Russian Association for the Protection of Religious Freedoms (RARF).
At the conclusion of the forum, the participants adopted a resolution expressing deep concern about rising religious extremism.
They also urged greater action on the part of the international community in stemming the continued destruction of Christian communities in the Middle East and Africa, and expressed solidarity with all those suffering persecution for their faith. [ESD PARL/Bettina Krause]
Adventists join vigil for justice in Australia
Canberra, New South Wales, Australia—Nearly 200 Christians from around Australia came together to worship, pray, and lobby their local federal politicians to increase Australia’s foreign aid to help end global poverty. Among the participants, 12 representatives from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia attended Voices for Justice, a four-day advocacy event held in Canberra October 10–13, 2015.
Attendees of Voices for Justice received training through workshops and political forums on how to speak out for a world of justice and compassion. The annual event was organized by Micah Australia, a coalition of church and Christian organizations—including ADRA Australia—whose mission is to inspire and empower Australian Christians to raise a powerful voice for global justice.
For the first time, five Avondale College of Higher Education students attended Voices for Justice. They were accompanied by international development studies senior lecturer Brad Watson, who described Voices as a “fantastic way to engage with Australia’s elected leaders. It was a humbling experience to meet with Christians from around Australia, to worship together, and meet with members of the upper and lower houses to humbly and prayerfully ask the Australian government to reverse the cuts to the aid budget.”
Voices for Justice culminated in a candlelight vigil on the lawns of the Parliament House with church leaders from various denominations praying for the nation’s leaders. Micah’s national coordinator, Ben Thurley, said prayer was a central focus of the event. “If we define advocacy as speaking to the powerful on behalf of the powerless, then prayer itself is a form of advocacy as we cry out from the depths of our hearts to the God of grace and justice.” Thurley said prayer “sends a powerful message to politicians—we hold them to their highest calling, which is to work for the common good and to protect the rights of the poor and needy both within our borders and beyond them.” [Josh Dye, Record Magazine/ ANN Staff].