Apr. 23, 2013 Bucharest, Romania
As Romanian legislators consider changes to the national constitution, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is sponsoring a mass promotion of religious liberty with a marathon of town hall meetings, university lectures and inter-faith consultations.
Religious freedom proponents from six faith groups, along with government officials, met in Lugoj, Romania, last month as part of the Freedom Caravan 2013, an initiative to promote greater understanding of the need for freedom of conscience. The group met with delegations and addressed university classes in more than 20 cities. [photos courtesy RUC]
In the Eastern European nation, where more than 85 percent of the population identifies with the Eastern Orthodox faith, Adventists are aiming to promote to key audiences the importance of religious liberty. The self-titled “Freedom Caravan 2013” of church and legal experts held events in more than 20 cities last month.
“Even though Romania has taken important steps in promoting religious liberty, we must stay alert to make sure that the principles of religious liberty stay untainted,” said Nelu Burcea, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Adventist Church’s Romania Union Conference.
Main changes to the constitution could include revising the president’s role and the prime minister’s method for nominating the president.
But a few activists are also calling for the Orthodox Church to become the national religion. Though experts say this proposal isn’t likely to become law, Romania’s constitution up until 1923 did mentioned the Orthodox Church as the country’s official church. Various attempts over the years to reinstate the church as the state religion were rejected by parliament.
Media reports indicate that a national referendum on constitutional changes won’t take place until autumn.
“We are now analyzing each proposal and we are monitoring the situation so that we can have a prompt reaction and appropriate action if necessary,” Burcea said.
At one stop during the caravan initiative – at the University of Craiova Law School – representatives of the International Religious Liberty Association presented the organization’s latest “Fides et Libertas” translated into Romanian. The book is a collection of articles from experts promoting mutual understanding among the world’s various faith groups.
For two years, the book has spearheaded the Adventist Church’s religious liberty efforts and has been presented in universities and libraries.
Some participants of the initiative said the country could further strengthen freedom of conscience with the upcoming constitutional change and called on the country to affirm freedom of belief for all religions.
“Romania should give a serious thought to introducing a comprehensive religious liberty law which would guarantee religious liberty for all people, all denominations, so that no church could be underprivileged,” said Greg Hamilton, president of the United States’ Northwest Religious Liberty Association, based in Ridgefield, Washington.
Romania has approximately 21 million people. There are about 67,000 Adventist Church members in Romania.
Romania has one of the Adventist world church’s highest broadcast penetrations through the outreach of Hope Channel subsidiary Speranta TV, which is viewable in approximately 80 percent of Romanian households. Adventist radio is also widely available throughout the country.
The International Religious Liberty Association is scheduled to hold a Freedom of Conscience conference in June to coincide with the release of the “Journal for Freedom of Conscience,” an 800-page publication with input from Romanian legal and political experts. The publication, Burcea said, is the first broad-reaching local attempt to focus on freedom of religion and belief from various perspectives.
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