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UN event boosts visibility of religious freedom NGO

International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty looks back at the results of its first panel discussion at the UN’s Geneva office

UN event boosts visibility of religious freedom NGO

The International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty co-sponsored a panel discussion on the sidelines of the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month. [photo: Andreas Mazza/EUD]

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The Adventist-affiliated group AIDLR got a welcomed boost in visibility this month by organizing its first event at the United Nations office in Geneva, organizers said.

AIDLR, or International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty, co-sponsored a panel discussion on the sidelines of the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council on June 10.

"The big miracle is that we could organize our event at the UN level [and] in the most important place in the world regarding human rights: the 26th session of the Human Rights Council,” said Liviu Olteanu, secretary-general of AIDLR. “We praise the Lord for it and for the participation of so many UN delegations.”

"One of the biggest results is the international visibility of AIDLR and a growing UN interest for religious liberty and religious minorities," Olteanu said.

Panelists at the June 10 event, titled “Worldwide Human Rights, Religious Liberty and Religious Minorities,” cautioned that religious freedoms risked being curbed if efforts weren’t made to better coordinate the work of the UN, European Union and other entities that have various approaches to human rights.

Participating UN delegations included Algeria, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, Russia, Serbia and the Vatican. People of various faiths also were represented: Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox believers and Muslims.

The other co-sponsors of the event were the permanent delegations to the UN of Canada, Norway, Spain, Uruguay and the Council of Europe.

John Graz, secretary-general of the Adventist-founded International Religious Liberty Association, which assisted with the event, expressed satisfaction with the results.

"It was the first meeting we have ever organized at the UN Geneva,” he said. “It was excellent!”

At the panel, AIDLR presented a new book, “Worldwide Human Rights and Religious Liberty: A New Equilibrium or New Challenges,” a collection of writings from four UN secretaries-general and religious leaders.

“I am very honored to be here and to support the presentation of this great book that talks about dignity and love," former Romanian Prime Minister Petre Roman said.

AIDLR is a UN-recognized nongovernmental organization founded in 1946 by the French Adventist physician Jean Nussbaum. The first two presidents of the association’s Honorary Committee were former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Nobel Peace Prize holder Dr. Albert Schweitzer. The current president of the Honorary Committee is Mary Robinson, former president of the Republic of Ireland.