Working to promote freedom of conscience for every person, no matter who they are or where they live.

More Than Liberty Rights and Respect

“There are times when I sit across the table from people who I know are doing terrible things to others. Sometimes when I talk with people I know that they are lying to me. But I also know that we share the same humanity.” These and other startling words came from Dr. Ganoune Diop during the February Diversity Lecture at Newbold College.

Dr. Diop is the Director for United Nations Relations for the global Seventh-day Adventist Church. He gave his lecture ‘More than Liberty, Rights or Respect’ as he returned from Togo in West Africa where he had been in talks at the highest levels of government concerning several imprisoned Adventist members. He was able to provide an update on the progress of the cases. 

Dr. Diop is a French citizen with roots in Senegal. ‘In Senegal’, he said, ‘people do not shout. Anyone who shouts is thought to be a little mad’. His gentle, gracious spirit made it clear to all present why he is ideally suited to this key ambassadorial role.

With the United Nations and many other agencies at work in many trouble spots around the world, he asked why the Adventist Church should become involved in this diplomatic work. His answer was that Adventists believe that we are created in the image of God, and so every human being, victim and perpetrator, is sacred and deserves to be treated with the greatest dignity. “Things change when you treat people as if they matter,” he continued. “People need to know that I am for them. Within the Church and beyond we need to create a culture of human dignity”.

Part of the problem, he said was that we really do not know or understand each other. “As Adventists we are here to heal misunderstandings. I tell government leaders that they should regard Adventists as assets to their society”. He emphasised his view that Adventist pastors and members should maintain connections with a variety of local organisations. He cited Ellen White to underline the point: “the Church abolishes all territorial lines”.

He was clear that human beings cannot solve their problems in any final way. “A new conflict starts somewhere in the world every month. Human beings have a very ugly side”. He continued, “But with the old rabbi I want to say that even if I believed that the world was going to end tomiorrow I would still plant a tree today”.

“As Adventists we should go beyond giving people rights and treat them with great dignity. We should go beyond showing them respect and treat them with great generosity”. Dr. Diop, who comes from a Muslim background, became an Adventist because he saw it as a way of becoming free. “We must offer that opportunity for personal freedom to people we meet in our everyday lives simply because we share a common humanity”.

Michael Pearson
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