By Mark Kellner
A Report from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Addressing nearly 900 delegates and guests at the Seventh World Congress of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), Denton Lotz, a noted Baptist minister and IRLA president, summarized the purpose of this three-day event: “We’re here today because we believe that freedom of religion is basic to all human rights.”
That view, sadly, is not shared in many parts of the world, something Lotz said made holding the sessions even more important.
“It’s incumbent upon us to work together that we live together in harmony and concord,” Lotz said to an audience of leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other communities. “We don’t need religious wars.”
That violence against believers remains a problem was evident from a session-opening video presentation noting the death sentences pronounced – but not yet carried out – on Christians in Pakistan and Iran on charges of “blasphemy,” and the assassinations of Pakistani officials Salman Tasser, governor of Punjab province and minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti. Also cited was the extreme religious repression found in North Korea.
While the main congress theme, “Secularism and Religious Freedom – Conflict or Partnership” may seem far removed from lands where persecution is active, Lotz took a different view.
“Most people worldwide suffer from a lack of religious freedom. Seventy percent of the world lives in places of religious repression,” he said.
This article appeared in Adventist Review on April 24, 2012.