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The 8th World Congress for Religious Freedom
October 18, 2017

Around 550 people from 65 different countries and 6 continents gathered at Diplomat Resort & Spa in Florida, USA, from August 22 to 24, 2017, for the forum and seminar tackling the pressing issue of world religious freedom. Some 50 presenters—scholars, lawyers, advocates, government officials and religious leaders—from around the world shared with the attendees their rich experiences and expertise on religious liberty. Presenters as renowned scholars and authors, public officials, religious freedom advocates, and members of the international non-governmental organization community represented more than twenty nationalities as well as major world religions. This time the key issue of the congress was religious freedom and hope for a peaceful coexistence.

As one of presenters, Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventists, stressed that religious freedom is one of the precious gifts granted to us from the very beginning by the Creator of all. Religious freedom is fundamental to the happy life of all humanity and an integral part of lifestyle. Despite this precious gift given by God to humanity, religious liberty is restricted in 40 percent of world countries, and 78.5 percent (5.9 billion people) of the world population live in areas where religious liberty is restricted.

The Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) has a great challenge in terms of religious freedom. North Korea, a still closed world has not allowed her people to have the freedom of religion. There is no official Adventist church in North Korea. In China, although people are allowed to have their own religion, there are still limits and restrictions. Sabbath observance is another hot issue even in South Korea and other countries in the NSD territories.

Union and Conference PARL (Public Affairs & Religious Liberty) directors were invited to attend the 8th World Congress for Religious Freedom. From the NSD territories, Pastor Bold Batsukh from Mongolia Mission, Pastor Toshio Shibata from Japan Union Conference, Pastor JiChun Lee from Korea Union Conference with five local conference PARL directors, and Pastor Alphon Fung from Hong Kong and Macau Conference attended this meeting. From the NSD office, Pastor Jairyong Lee, who was then the Division president; Dr. Kim SiYoung, Global Mission director; and Dr. Joo Minho, PARL director; attended the congress.

In addition, Choi HyeHyun and Seo Eunhye from Korea also joined the delegates from the NSD. These two women were medical students who had graduated from universities last year but had not been able to take the exam for a medical doctor’s license due to the Sabbath issue. One of the exam days fell on the Sabbath. They appealed to the Human Right Korea Commission to allow them to take the exams after sunset on Saturday, but unfortunately their request was denied. Three Adventist medical students refused to take the exams on the Sabbath. Their faithful acts were delivered to the GC PARL department and Dr. Nelu Burcea, GC PARL associate director, appealed to Korean diplomats working at the United Nations. By the grace of God, the exam days were changed from the Sabbath to a weekday.

Two out of the three students had the chance to attend this international meeting and learn what is going on in the area of religious freedom internationally. Both of them had interviews with Dr. Nelu regarding their courage to stand firm for their principles no matter what the circumstances.

Joo MinHo, NSD PARL Director