IRLA 9th World Congress encourages participants to reflect and act for the good of all people.
August 23, 2023 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
Nearly 200 religious liberty leaders, scholars, and advocates from around the world met for the 9th World Congress of the International Religious Liberty (IRLA) in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, August 21-23.
The international event invited attendees to discuss “a wholistic understanding of freedom of religion or belief as a pivotal human right,” organizers said.
In his remarks on August 21, Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, welcomed attendees, reminding them of the historical focus of the denomination on the topic.
“Adventist pioneers … saw in religious liberty an incontrovertible value without which our very humanity could be at risk of being diminished and impaired,” thus embracing “the priceless value of religious freedom, and the foundation of freedom itself,” Wilson said.
Wilson shared how Adventist pioneers fought against oppression of others, against slavery, and against early attempts at Sunday laws. “Adventist leaders officially adopted a solidarity with the whole human family through the advocacy of religious liberty,” he reminded attendees.
Do We Really Believe It?
The opening program included words by IRLA’s president, Ambassador John Nay, who reflected on the implications of supporting religious liberty. “We say we believe in religious freedom for all people,” he said. “But do we really believe it in our hearts?” Nay called his audience to move past supporting religious freedom just for their own group, religious or otherwise, and embrace an advocacy that takes every human being into account.
At the same time, Nay emphasized, accepting religious freedom for all people — for those who believe and for those who don’t believe — may lead us to question our behaviors toward other groups. He explained that while we are within our rights to question a law for purely secular reasons, we should be very careful when using religious arguments to oppose a particular bill.