Increasing violations of religious freedom must be combated, leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe said last week.
Church representatives from 21 countries met in a series of meetings from Nov. 7 to 9 in Rogaska, Slatina, Slovenia. They worked on issues of concern, including the rise of religious extremism, the problems of intolerance and discrimination, and the need to defend freedom of conscience and belief.
“Today religious freedom is more important than ever,” said Miroslav Pujic, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European region, and event organizer. “Conflicts over religion are increasing, and intolerance is on the rise. Even though Europe has a good record in promoting freedom of conscience over recent years, both religious extremism and greater state regulation are worrying trends. We’re calling for support and defense of religious freedom for all.”
Bertil Wiklander, church president for Trans-European Region, spoke on the role of state and church in a changing world, referencing particularly biblical values, concepts of human rights, and the increasing role of the European Union. “We need to have greater representation at the European level,” Wiklander affirmed, “working for greater awareness and development of religious freedom.”
Zmago Godina, Adventist religious freedom leader in Slovenia, said, “It’s vital to make sure religious freedom issues are publicized. Recent history in southeast Europe shows that conflicts often have a religious aspect, and we need to emphasize respect for freedom of conscience of all believers.”
Valdis Zilgalvis, representing Adventists in the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, added, “As Adventists we have great concern that the religious rights of people of faith are recognized and respected. We must work harder for mutual respect between religions. While we have our own convictions, we must also make sure that others have the right to believe as they choose, without force or compulsion.”
John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the world Adventist church and one of the presenters, commented that the meeting was “a major step forward. Unless we continue to protect, promote and defend religious freedom, we will lose it very quickly.”