by Monte Sahlin
From ANN, June 26, 2014
The International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty (AIDLR), a nonprofit organization created by Adventists in Europe in the 1940s, organized its first event at the United Nations (UN) office in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 10. The panel discussion was concurrent with the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council and gave AIDLR a welcomed boost in visibility.
AIDLR was the primary sponsor with the permanent delegations to the UN of Canada, Norway, Spain, Uruguay and the Council of Europe. AIDLR is officially recognized as a nongovernmental organization by the UN and therefore is among the advisory groups that give input to UN discussions and studies.
"The big miracle is that we could organize our event at the UN level [and] in the most important place in the world regarding human rights,” said Liviu Olteanu, secretary-general of AIDLR. “We praise the Lord for it and for the participation of so many UN delegations. … One of the biggest results is the international visibility of AIDLR and a growing UN interest for religious liberty and religious minorities."
The topic of the panel was “Worldwide Human Rights, Religious Liberty and Religious Minorities.” It focused on the concern that religious freedoms risked being curbed if efforts weren’t made to better coordinate the work of the UN, European Union and other entities that have various approaches to human rights.
Participating UN delegations included Algeria, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, Russia, Serbia and the Vatican. People of various faiths also were represented, including Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox believers and Muslims.
John Graz, secretary-general of the International Religious Liberty Association, an organization founded by Adventists in the United States, assisted with the event and expressed satisfaction with the results. "It was the first meeting we have ever organized at the UN in Geneva,” he said. “It was excellent!”
At the panel, AIDLR presented a new book, Worldwide Human Rights and Religious Liberty: A New Equilibrium or New Challenges, a collection of writings from four UN secretaries-general and religious leaders. “I am very honored to be here and to support the presentation of this great book that talks about dignity and love," former Romanian Prime Minister Petre Roman said.
AIDLR was initiated in 1946 by Dr. Jean Nussbaum, an Adventist physician in France. The first two presidents of the association’s Honorary Committee were former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Nobel Peace Prize holder Dr. Albert Schweitzer. The current president of the Honorary Committee is Mary Robinson, former president of the Republic of Ireland.
The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.