It was a young Muslim lady who said, “If you really believe in religious freedom you will support religious freedom for those you disagree with, those who have a fantasy basis for their beliefs and actions.” This statement at the 8th global congress of the International Religious Liberty Association in Florida recently, jolted me. Like many Adventists, I believe in religious freedom so we don’t have to work or take exams on Sabbath. Religious freedom is about us and the enforced state worship predicted in Revelation 13.
General Conference president Ted Wilson gave the best biblical reason for why we believe in religious liberty. We are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26,27) and this includes the freedom of choice (Genesis 2:16, 17, 20). Every human has the right to believe and not believe, act and not act, according to their conscience. This is a basic human right. When Jesus was on earth He never forced people to believe. The rich young ruler had a religious choice and he walked away (Luke 18:18-28). [pullquote]
I left the congress with a greater appreciation for religious freedom and the realisation that I needed to be a greater advocate on this issue.
In recent meetings with political leaders in New Caledonia and French Polynesia I thanked each person for the religious freedom given to the Church and all people in their territories. Although the church and state issues in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are nothing compared to what many in the world face, we still need to be vigilant here.
Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot meet, witness or own property in Russia. In the past 10 years the percentage of the world’s population who don’t have religious freedom has increased from 68 per cent to 80 per cent.1 That is 5.9 billion people. Wow! The least we can do is join those who pray on Sabbath, “thank you for the freedom of worship and bless those who do not have it”. And stick up for the religious rights of JWs and others.