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The International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) Congress is held quinquennially in different parts of the world. For its 8th Congress on August 22-24, 2017, it was conducted in North America, first time since its founding in 1977.

January 22, 2019 | Florida, U.S.A

BY Regina Domini L. Agno

The 550 delegates and guests gathered at Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, Florida, U.S.A.. According to the organizers, it was an internationally diverse event since the delegates came from 65 countries and six continents.

IRLA President John R. Nay delivered the keynote address where he emphasized that without freedom of religion, there could be no peaceful co- existence. To underscore the importance of religious freedom, an introduction video was presented with this statement: “At the heart of human dignity is an unchained conscience, the right to believe or not to believe, the right to worship or not to worship, without fear, without punishment. But for an increasing number of men and women around the world today, religious freedom is a distant dream.” It then paid tribute to religious groups and ethnic minorities living in different countries that are experiencing persecution, suffering, and even death.

Aside from the plenary sessions, delegates attended some breakout sessions with specific subjects on religious freedom.

Around 50 presenters consisting of advocates, lawyers, scholars, government officials and religious leaders shared their insights and experiences on religious freedom. Elder Ted N.C. Wilson, the President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was one of the presenters. He said, “The greatest challenge is for us to uphold peaceful co- existence and religious liberty by doing eternal vigilance... God calls each one of us to stand up for religious freedom.”

IRLA’s mission is to promote and defend religious freedom as a fundamental universal human right. It is also an advocacy of the Seventh-Dday Adventist Church that is was why there was a good representation from the different levels of the worldwide church at the said event. The NPUC was represented by former Cong. Harlin G. Abayon, Atty. Gizelle Lou Cabahug- Fugoso, Atty. Regina Domini L. Agno, Pr. Joel L. Sarmiento and Pr. Rodolfo R. Bautista, Jr.

DIRLA for Peaceful Co-Existence

Delegates from around the world gathered for one-day Legal Symposium for Adventist Lawyers on August 21, 2017 at Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, Florida, U. S. A.
The office of the General Counsel of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists organized the event preceding the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) 8th World Congress. It specifically targeted lawyers who work in connection with Adventist Church entities to better equip them in providing legal services.Topics covered Religious Liberty, Church Corporate Structure and Governance, Contracts, and Intellectual Property.

Resource speakers included General Counsel, Karnik Doukmetzian; Associate General Counsels Josue Pierre, Jennifer Woods, and Todd McFarland; and PARL Associate Director, Dwayne Leslie.

Hon. James E. Graves, Jr. gave the Keynote Address. He is an Adventist judge serving at the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2011. Judge Graves upholds the principle of treating everyone fairly and this holds true as he tries to hand down collegial decisions.

In the afternoon, selected Legal Directors of divisions reported the updates within their territory and the challenges they are facing. They were Luigi Braga from South America, Boyce Mkhize of Southern Africa-Indian Ocean, and Rex Rosas of Southern Asia- Pacific Division. It is noteworthy that in South American Division alone, there are 136 lawyers employed by the church assigned in its territory, as reported by Luigi Braga.During the devotional, Josue Pierre emphasized that there is a special role assigned to God’s disciples who are attorneys. Lawyers will live up to their roles by: (1) gaining intimate knowledge of God (2) mastering the ability to apply God’s Word in situations, and (3) taking their knowledge to the next level. He emphasized Micah 6:8 as guiding principle for lawyers which is, “To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

Indeed, the meeting was a rare opportunity for Adventist lawyers to be gathered under one roof and to connect with one another. They joined the blessed fellowship and a general consensus won to have another gathering of Adventist legal professionals in the near future.

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