Ansel Oliver/Viola Hughes/ANN Staff
The education director for the Seventh-day Adventist world church says the church’s commitment to fighting illiteracy remains strong. Humberto Rasi made his comments following the celebration of the 38th annual International Literacy Day, a United Nations event highlighting the importance of literacy and basic education in fostering development around the world.
According to Rasi, the church’s emphasis on literacy is driven “because of our commitment to the quality of life of people, and because of our commitment to global education.”
Rasi also points out that literacy impacts almost every aspect of a person’s life, helping to dramatically increase living standards. “Literacy transforms a person—they can read, do mathematics, their whole horizon expands,” he says. “I’ve seen literacy combined with basic health programs. In Bahia, Brazil, [Adventist] students and teachers targeted a poor neighborhood to teach not just literacy, but basic health, hygiene, nutrition, disease prevention, and simple editions of the gospels.” Literacy opens “windows of hope,” says Rasi. “Once we change a person we change the generations that come after them.”
The Adventist Church operates the largest unified Protestant education system in the world, with a network of some 6,000 schools, colleges and universities. “There is a great deal more that we could do,” says Rasi. “We have a network, a structure, and we care about people. It’s my hope that the church plays an even larger role in this.”
Recent figures released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization show some improvement worldwide, with a fall in the number of illiterate adults from 22.4 percent to 20.3 percent in 2000. In that same year about 877 million adults were illiterate, and 113 million children were not attending school. Of these the most affected illiterate group is women.