Spotlight on the Church’s role in public affairs and religious liberty

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Dr Diop, Mr Bower and Adventist Church leaders in NZ met with members of the Muslim community. (Credit: Ben Martin)

The director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) for the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church expressed his sympathies to the Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Tuesday (August 6) during a week-long visit to the South Pacific Division (SPD).

Dr Ganoune Diop, SPD PARL director Ronald Bower and several leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Zealand had lunch with Muslim community leaders followed by a visit to the Al Noor mosque, one of the two mosque sites where 51 people were gunned down in a terrorist attack in Christchurch nearly five months ago. They shared messages of support and encouragement.

“God created all human beings in His image, so we have deep solidarity with the whole of humanity,” Dr Diop said. “If a part of humanity is suffering because of this terrible terrorist attack, [we want to share] our sympathy and our condolences.

“We told them, ‘the Adventist Church is with you, during all this pain, difficulty and trauma’. I told them ‘we pray for you that God will protect you’, because God loves these people, there’s no question about it.

“You know, you can believe differently but at the same time be able to connect with people at an ethical, moral, humane level and this is what we were doing in Christchurch.”

Dr Diop. (Credit: Daniel Kuberek)

Prior to their visit to New Zealand, Dr Diop and Mr Bower had a short stop in Vanuatu, where they shared about the work of PARL with local pastors and Adventist government ministers, members of parliament and senior civil servants.

Yesterday, Dr Diop presented to Church leaders at the SPD headquarters in Wahroonga, Sydney. He described PARL as the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” for the Seventh-day Adventist Church due to its work in the public arena with government officials, presidents and other political leaders.

“It is the most visible public face of the Adventist Church, and functions as the official liaison between the Church and the world,” he said.

“All the functions of PARL relate to witnessing about the credibility and relevance of Adventist identity, message and mission.”

Dr Diop with SPD leaders. (Credit Daniel Kuberek)

Speaking to Adventist Record after the presentation, Dr Diop said he is encouraged by the PARL work being carried out in the South Pacific Division and that our leaders are “at the table” in the public arena.

“Adventists are part of society so not being at the table is a most terrible thing,” he said. “It is denying the nature of the [great] commission—how can we be Christ’s witnesses without being salt and light? And if we are salt and light that means we ought to mingle with other people.

“It is part of our identity, our DNA, to be witnesses, but we do it by not insulting other people but in the dignity of difference and the dignity of respect.”

SPD PARL director Ronald Bower said the SPD had been blessed by Dr Diop’s visit.

“Dr Ganoune’s encouragement and support have been deeply valued,” Mr Bower said. “His presentations have helped to raise awareness of PARL so that there is a better understanding of its important role in the mission of the Church.”