From ANN, December 16, 2015: An international networking association for Seventh-day Adventists in public office is expanding, with the Brazilian launch of a regional chapter of the World Association of Adventists in Public Office (WAPOA). Some 60 Adventist lawmakers, members of the judiciary, and others in public roles met December 5 in central São Paulo to discuss the unique opportunities—and challenges—of church members who hold political or civic office.
WAPOA is a worldwide organization that was formed this year on the sidelines of the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, by an international group of 21 Adventists in public office—including ambassadors, legislators, state ministers, members of international bodies and members of the judiciary. The founders of WAPOA saw the organization as way to connect Adventists around the world who serve in high public office. They also believed it could help nurture stronger ties between the church and these Adventist members, whose unusual professional lives can sometimes lead to a sense of isolation.
The group elected Senator Floyd Morris, Senate President of Jamaica, as president of the new association, and Ambassador Bienvenido V. Tejano, Philippine ambassador to Papua New Guinea, as its secretary. At the time, Elder Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, encouraged the group, calling them “unusual ambassadors for Christ” and saying, “You make a difference in an arena that most of us never touch.”
The São Paulo meeting was organized by Dr. Damaris Moura Kuo, one of the founding members of WAPOA in San Antonio, and the association’s public relations officer. A well-known lawyer and public speaker, Dr. Moura Kuo has long served as President of the Religious Freedom Commission of the Bar Association of Brazil.
Moura Kuo says the broad goal of the new WAPOA chapter is to connect church members who work for governments and other public institutions, and to provide opportunities for mutual support and the exchange of ideas. She says the group also aims to find ways to support the mission of the church and to promote the principle of religious freedom.
According to Moura Kuo, the Brazilian chapter of WAPOA has received tremendous encouragement and support from local and international church leaders. Present at the inaugural WAPOA meeting was Dr. Nemias Martins, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) for the church in São Paulo, Dr. Alcides Coimbra, PARL director for the church in Central Brazil, and Pastor Helio Carnassale, PARL director for the church in South America. Dr. Ganoune Diop, PARL director for the Adventist world church, sent a video message of support.
A key focus of this first meeting of WAPOA in Brazil was allowing attendees to get to know each other and to share concerns or ideas. The meeting also included music, an introduction to the aims of the organization, and the Brazilian launch of the book Church Ambassadors, written by Dr. John Graz, former world church Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director. Those attending were also given a primer on religious freedom by the Bar Association of Brazil, a handbook on religious freedom by Dr. Alcides Coimbra, and the magazine “Esperança Viva” (“Living Hope”), donated by the South American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.