"Combat Religious Intolerance!" The World Congress Begins

Paul Ratsara presents as Denton Lotz looks on

The IRLA World Congress began today, February 27, examining the dramatic theme "Combating Religious Hatred through Freedom to Believe." With a positive and substantive welcome from Paul Ratsara, southern Africa IRLA president, the congress commenced with a clear commitment to highlighting the challenges.

"This is not a business-as-usual congress," comments IRLA spokesman Jonathan Gallagher. "We are combating the very real scourge of religious hatred and developing some practical responses and solutions. A strong sense of realism and action is gripping the delegates, wanting to see some definite changes. The hardest thing in the world is to change minds and the way we think, but that is essential if we are to see true religious freedom grow and develop."

In his introduction IRLA secretary-general John Graz made it clear that such congresses were essential. "As long as the right to choose one's religion is not respected, as long as innocent people are discriminated against, persecuted, and deprived of their basic rights just because of their beliefs, we need to have congresses on religious freedom, congresses like this one."

Participants at the World Congress

He went on to explain that coming to Cape Town, the first World Congress to be held in Africa, was a deliberate act-to speak to the issues in Africa and beyond.

"Our coming to Cape Town will not change the world in one day, but it will show the world that religious discrimination and persecution are not inevitable," Graz continued. "There are people from all over the world, people from different faiths and traditions, who want to demonstrate that there is another way to deal with differences. There are people who have chosen to come to this Congress in Cape Town because they are determined to promote peace and justice through religious freedom for all people everywhere."

In the keynote address, IRLA President Denton Lotz identified the primary outcome, in that "this Congress will contribute to religious freedom and peaceful harmony among nations and religions. Our goal is more than just co-existing together on planet earth, but rather our goal

John Graz, IRLA Secretary-General

should be pro-existence, living together faithfully for a righteous and just society of all people, especially the poor, the persecuted and downtrodden. At this Congress, if our search for and defense of religious freedom issues in such a pro-existence life-style, then we will combat religious hatred wherever we are."

The World Congress continues until March 1 atthe Cape Town International Conference Centre in South Africa. All reports and speeches provided in electronic format are available atwww.irla.org/congress/docindex.html [Kristina Malarek/IRLA News]