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Adventist religious freedom report documents growing challenges


A survey of more than 220 countries reveals restrictions for people of faith, as well as widespread discrimination and abuse of religious minorities.

October 19, 2015

Bettina Krause

Adventist religious freedom report documents growing challenges

[photo courtesy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) department has released a country-by-country report on the state of religious freedom around the globe. The 2015 Religious Freedom World Report is the ninth such report produced by the church since 1999 and, according to PARL director Ganoune Diop, it reveals international trends that are far from encouraging.  

“In spite of an unprecedented global mobilization to promote religious freedom,” writes Diop in his introduction to the Report, “the state of religious freedom in the world remains bleak.” He notes that recent data collected by the Adventist Church—as well as by other watchdog agencies—all point to a global religious freedom landscape that is growing more restrictive and less stable. Even more sobering is the rapidly growing threat posed in many regions by so-called “non-state actors” such as terror organizations and militia groups.

The PARL department’s World Report is unique in that it brings a distinctly Adventist perspective to reporting on religious freedom issues. In the World Report, each country’s entry includes a political and social overview, a survey of relevant law, an analysis of religious freedom protection in practice, and a summary of the Adventist Church’s recent experience within that jurisdiction.

As Sabbath-keepers and members of what, in many countries, is a religious minority, the experiences of Adventists provide significant data on how far, and how effectively, governments around the world are protecting religious freedom. This year’s World Report documents Sabbath-keeping difficulties experienced by Adventist students or employees in almost every world region, and in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Belarus, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Romania, Russia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Adventists and other people of faith live under particularly onerous conditions in many Central Asian countries, and in countries with a strong presence of religious fundamentalism—whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Islamic.

“Today, millions of people are suffering in many parts of the world,” writes Diop. “These are men and women who deliberately choose to remain loyal to their beliefs rather than compromise their conscience.”

According to Diop, the World Report aims to document and highlight these ongoing challenges, and to affirm the Adventist Church’s long-standing recognition of religious freedom as a foundational human right; one which undergirds all other freedoms.

In past years, the World Report has been cited in a number of international reports, including those produced by the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the U.S. State Department. This year’s World Report contains data on 223 countries and territories, and is available online at www.irla.org/world-report-2015.pdf

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