For Adventist Church leaders, the visit kicked off a weekend-long focus on conscience and religious freedom, and highlighted the church’s work in building a healthier, more peaceful society.
February 02, 2016
Bettina Krause, communication director, International Religious Liberty Association
[Photo courtesy of Libertad de Creencias, Asociación Azteca]
Human rights and religious freedom were the focus of a meeting last week between Ganoune Diop, the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s religious liberty leader, and Eruviel Ávila Villegas, governor of Mexico’s most populous state. The two, along with representatives of the Adventist Church in central Mexico, met on January 22 in Toluca de Lerdo, the state capital, and discussed ways in which Adventists work to improve the quality of life within communities.
“I want you to know that you have an ally in the the government of Mexico,” said Governor Eruviel Ávila. He pledged continued support for the Church’s work not only in promoting human rights, but also its efforts in health care, education, and other social welfare programs. The governor thanked Diop for his worldwide work in safeguarding religious freedom, and described him as, “a man who promotes peace and who develops alliances to do good and to support those who need it most.” In turn, Diop expressed gratitude to the governor for his continuing support for religious freedom as a fundamental and universal human right.
The meeting took place the day before a weekend-long Religious Liberty Congress—the first ever to be held in Mexico City—which was organized by the Azteca Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Some 220 people, mainly university students, professionals, and local church pastors, attended the event. Along with Diop, speakers included Daniel Silva, a constitutional law expert and city leader, Raul Ruz, an author and professor from Veracruz University, and Fernando Crespo, a human rights lawyer and professor from the Santander University System.
For Adventist Church members in many parts of Mexico, religious liberty is more than just a theoretical concern. Ruben Ponce, religious liberty director for the Adventist Church’s Azteca Conference, cites a long list of of challenges that Sabbath-keepers regularly encounter, including public university admission tests scheduled on Saturdays, on-the-job employment discrimination against Sabbath-keepers, and in the State of Mexico, a mandatory state-wide evaluation for teachers that has been held on Saturdays. Adventist doctors who object to performing abortions on conscientious grounds sometimes also meet with legal complications. Diop says that constitution of Mexico establishes the right to religious liberty and conscience for all Mexican citizens, and confirms the equality of every person. He encouraged Adventists to continue to express their gratitude for these liberties, while working to make these freedoms even more clearly reflected within Mexican society.
[Reporting and translation assistance from Libna Stevens and Ruben Ponce.]