SDA Hand-in-Hand with World Council of Churches

IRLA News January 99
Letter from the Secretary-General
January '99

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 Merit.

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!

IRLA Interventions

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.


John Graz
Secretary General


12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600
Phone: (301) 680-6686
Fax: (301) 680-6695