Russian Delegation Visits Adventist Headquarters As Part of Study Tour

Part of the Russian delegation

SILVER SPRING, MD, USA. As part of the Open World Program, a delegation of some 35 Russian civil and government leaders visited the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventists Church on June 25, 2003, to learn and share ideas in church-state issues.

Speaking on behalf of the Adventist Church’s Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, Dr. Bert Beach gave a brief summary of the Adventist Church and its various services, such as health, education, and religious liberty. “For more than 100 years, the Adventist Church has promoted separation of church and state because we believe that a state religion does not advance the cause of religious freedom for minority religions and its citizens.”

IRLA Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, addressing delegation with the help of a translator.

Representing the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, deputy secretary-general, spoke of the association’s mission and purpose and its recent activities in working with civil, government and religious leaders in the promotion of religious freedom. “We believe religious freedom is key to security and tolerance around the world,” Gallagher said. “Religious freedom is an essential aspect of national security and attempts to suppress religious expression only destabilize society.”

Established in 1999, the Open World Program is sponsored by the US Congress for the purpose of forging better understanding between the US and Russia. Six hundred and eighty communities across the United States hosted more than 4,000 participants ever since the inception of this program.

Eugenia Leonovitch (interpreter) first met IRLA legal advisor, Mitchell Tyner, in 2002 in Southern Russia.

“The group here today represents organizations that cooperate with various churches in Russia,” said Eugenia Leonovitch, group facilitator and interpreter. “The Open World Program focuses on young political and civic leaders from all jurisdictional levels. The 10-day tour provides an opportunity for participants to observe and experience American political, business and community life.”

Program participants have included members of the Russian Parliament and their staff, mayors, judges, journalists, NGO directors, educators and political party officials. Open World Program leaders remain engaged with their alumni once they return to Russia. The program has already sponsored 10 alumni conferences in cities across Russia.

The visit was coordinated by Dr. Cole Durham, professor of law at Brigham Young University and member of the Board of Experts for the IRLA. [Viola Hughes]