|IRLA News January 99|
Letter from the Secretary-General
Dear IRLA Board Members:
Because you will receive this letter near the beginning of the New Year, I
have the opportunity to wish you a beautiful and blessed New Year. 1998 was a
great year for IRLA and we look forward to 1999 to achieve several projects.
Pondering our 1998 year, a few things stand out in my mind.
Buenos Aires: Lecture and IRLA-Argentina Chapter
We received a VIP welcome at the Buenos Aires airport from the IRLA officers
of the Argentina Chapter with Professor Emilio Cardoso, director of the
Department of Religious Registration. Professor Cardoso organized a great
meeting at the Bar-Ilan University of Buenos Aires in September. The Secretary
of State for Religious Affairs chaired this meeting to which about 400 students
and professors attended. The Rector Professor Leon Bernstein Han gave warm
support at the meeting, and I lectured on religious freedom in the world. The
following day we went to the Adventist University of La Plata and with our
Argentinian members gave birth to the IRLA Argentinian Chapter. Professor
Alberro and Dr. Posse are the officers. They did a great work and have many
projects. Our IRLA Secretary General for South America, Siloé de Almeida, was
with us. The following day, the University welcomed the President of the
Republic, Dr. Carlos Menem, and I had the privilege of meeting him. The trip to
Argentina was very fruitful.
Iguaçu, Brazil: General Assembly
Our General Assembly in October gave us the occasion to share reports and
vote the Board of Experts Meeting in Spain from May 13-16 and the Congress of
New Delhi for December 12-15, 1999. We also showed the new ten-minute video of
IRLA. It is good to use as an introduction at meetings.
Windsor Castle and Archbishop of Canterbury
In October, Bert Beach and I had the opportunity to stay in Windsor Castle as
members of the World Christian Communion attending a meeting there. Religious
freedom was mentioned along with comments about the Statement of the Anglican
Communion voted during the Lambeth Conference in August. We were later welcomed
by the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed by a special meal in London. The
religious leaders are key people in the religious freedom issue.
Conference of Toledo
In November, I was invited by Professor Alberto de la Hera, under the
auspices of the Ministry of Justice of Spain, to a meeting of the three
religions of the Book in Spain. Rosa Maria Martinez de Codes and the team of
Professor de la Hera had a very effective program. We also had the pleasure of
being with several of our IRLA members. Thanks go to Professor de la Hera and
Rosa Maria that IRLA was not forgotten. Congratulations to Professor Amor who
was honored with the Cross of Commander of the National Order of the Civil
50th Anniversary of the UDHR
Lee Boothby and Cole Durham attended a symposium in Bucharest organized by
our partner association AIDLR. Maurice Verfaillie and Viorel Dima were in charge
and it was a very good meeting. We remained in Washington for a special
celebration of the 50th Anniversary in this area. It was great! The speakers
were the newly designated Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, Dr. Robert
Seiple (his wife attended); David Little, member of the Advisory Committee on
Religious Persecution; Joseph Sills, Representative of the United Nations
Secretary General; Karen Lord from the State Department; and Robert Folkenberg,
president of the SDA Church. The program began with the New England Youth
Ensemble and The Collegiate Chorale. Beautiful! More than 300 people attended.
It was a good celebration which ended with a liturgical prayer read by the
assembly. Richard Fenn was the key organizer of this meeting.
IRLA President for 1999
Bishop Gunnar Staalsett accepted the invitation to become the IRLA President
for 1999. Gunnar has given several lectures on human rights and religious
freedom and is invited to speak regularly. At this time we want to thank Robert
Nixon for his fine service as our past IRLA President. He will remain chairman
of the IRLA Committee.
Jerusalem: 50th Anniversary and New IRLA Chapter
Pastor Richard Elofer and his team are courageous! Just last month they
organized a commemorative celebration for the 50th Anniversary of the UDHR in
Jerusalem consisting of several meetings, a press conference, and a beautiful
program. Richard invited the Deputy Attorney General, Professor Nahum Rakover,
Professor Mustafa Abu-Sway; Dr. Ibrahim Kaudalaft, Pastor Scott and I, to speak.
The meeting was held in the auditorium of the YMCA. During this stay, I visited
Rector Nihil Cohen whom I met in Toledo. The meeting gave birth to the IRLA
Israel Chapter. Congratulations!
The tensions in India, Indonesia, Cape Verde, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan
maintained our interest this last quarter. We reacted to the imprisonment of one
pastor in Uzbekistan, another in Sri Lanka, and a pastor’s son. The good news is
that two of these people have been released. The good news is that Uzbekistan
seems more open than Russia. The bad news is that Pastor Alexander is still
jailed in Sri Lanka and was tortured. The good news is that our actions in Cape
Verde subdued inter-religious tensions. The bad news is that two innocent people
were tortured by the police and are still in jail. The bad news is that France
voted the first anti-sect law on compulsory schooling. When? December 10, 1998,
the day of the 50th Anniversary of the UDHR. Very bad!
Richard Fenn: New Associate
Richard Fenn is officially my deputy, and has already done a tremendous job
in Washington and New York. He also brought to fruit the dream of having an IRLA
journal: Fides et Libertas, which will be out shortly.
Professor Amor was elected a member of the United Nations Human Rights
Committee. Pastor Bienvenido Tejano, our IRLA Secretary General for the
Philippines, was nominated Ambassador in Papua New Guinea. Congratulations!
Maurice Verfaillie met the Queen of Spain and is invited to lecture there. Bert
Beach attended the World Council of Churches Assembly in Harare. Wintley Phipps
was chosen to be the SDA president’s Advisor for the U.S. Congress.
1999 will see some important events: the January Liberty Campaign; the
Meeting of Experts in May; the International Congress in New Delhi; and a
possible congress in Yaounde, Africa, to mention a few. Visit our website at
Thank you very much for your support and may God bless every one of you and
your family this New Year.
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600
Fax: (301) 680-6695