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

Madrid: Two big events. The First IADRL International Conference – Symposium, and Religious Liberty Concert “Ambassadors of Liberty, Hope and Peace” in Spain



On Friday January 17, the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty, IADRL, held its first big international event for this new century in Madrid, Spain. Professor Dr. Jose Miguel Serrano Ruiz Calderon, and Dr. Liviu Olteanu, IADRL Secretary General organized an International Conference - Symposium at the Complutense University of Madrid with the cooperation of The Human Rights Institute of Law and Law Faculty. The theme was: In the light of the Edict of Milan, “Religious Liberty and Religious Minorities: Between the Balance and the Challenges”.


The Conference was opened by Professor Dr. Raul Canosa Usera, Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Dr. Jose Miguel Serrano co-director of the Conference, Dr. Bruno Vertallier IADLR President, Professor Ricardo Garcia-Garcia, Deputy Director General for the Relations with religions of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney Liviu Olteanu Secretary-General of IADRL.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt gave a report on the state of religious freedom around the world. He stated that a number of religious conflicts are in fact fed by a political agenda; a position confirmed by Mrs. Rita Izsak, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues.  There was in the Madrid International Conference an excellent synergy between the work of the Special Rapporteur of UN on Religion and Independent Expert of UN on Minority Issues. Also, the Professor Bielefeldt moderated one panel in an original, authentic and enthusiastic way.

 Dr. Fatos Araci, Professor Kuhalampi and H.E. Ambassador Professor Alexey Koshemyakov, represented the European Court of Human Rights, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.  H.E. Ambassador Belen Alfaro from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain and Professor Jeremy Gunn from Al Akhawayn University, Morocco, Professor Joaquin Mantecon from University of Cantabria, former deputy director general in the Ministry of Justice of Spain and many others professors of the Spanish Universities: the Dean of Law Faculty Jaime Rossel Granados- University of Extremadura, the Dean of Law Faculty Jose Maria Espinar Vicente- of University of Alcala de Henares, the Honorary Dean Jose Iturmendi of Law Faculty UCM, Professor Dr. Zoila Combalia- University of Zaragoza, the professors Javier Martinez-Torron, Juan Antonio Martinez Munoz, etc. were part of the program.

The IRLA was represented by its Secretary General Dr. John Graz, the Deputy Secretary General Dr. Ganoune Diop, and the Vice President of its Board Professor Alberto de la Hera, Former Director General of the Relations with Religions in the Ministry of Justice of Spain.   

Secretary General Liviu Olteanu stressed in his presentation at the University the need today of one more complete paradigm in favor of the religious liberty and of religious minorities: the multidisciplinary dialog in favor of the liberty and peace, named Dialog 5: Governmental- Scholars- Diplomatic- Religious- Civil Society Representatives. Between 200-250 scholars, religious, diplomatic, NGOs representatives and students of the Faculty of Law attended the conference.

The group of the speakers visited the old city of Toledo which has been, an oasis of religious tolerance between, Christians, Muslims and Jews.

On Saturday night, the participants of the symposium were invited to a public religious liberty concert organized in their honor at the Adventist Central Church of Madrid with a large number of participants. The theme of the concert was: “Ambassadors of Liberty, Hope and Peace”. In his introduction, the IADRL Secretary General, Dr. Liviu Olteanu said that after the evaluation of other different options unavailable for that night, the choice of a church which belongs to a religious minority for the concert was in harmony with the theme of the symposium. Short messages were delivered by the UN Special Rapporteur Professor Heiner Bienefeld, Mrs Rita Izsak, Dr. John Graz, Dr. Ganoune Diop. In his introduction, the representative of the Spanish Government Professor Dr. Ricardo Garcia-Garcia thanked the IADRL and its Secretary General for the International Conference and its work for the defense and the promotion of religious liberty.

The crowd of more than 1300, stood up and led by Dr. John Graz, repeated the pledge of all festivals: “Thank you to God, thank you to Spain for religious freedom; we love it and we want to keep it!”.

Three large choirs, which were part of the program, were united in singing the beautiful hymn of freedom, the “Va, Pensiero” of Verdi.

According to the participants, this first “IADRL International Conference” was a great success. Attorney Liviu Olteanu announced that other events are planned at UN, EP and other places, i.e. an International Religious Freedom Congress and a Religious Liberty Awards Dinner.

The IADRL was founded by Dr. Jean Nussbaum in 1946 and got its UN Consultative Status by ECOSOC in 1976.  Past Presidents of Honorary Committee of IADRL were Mme. Eleanor Roosevelt, the two Nobel Prize winners: Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Rene Cassin, Paul Henry Spaak, Edgar Faure, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and currently Mary Robinson.

The Secretary General of IADRL Attorney Liviu Olteanu is Permanent Representative at the United Nations in Geneva, New York and Vienna and at European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, and is Representative at Council of Europe in Strasbourg and at O.S.C.E. in Warsaw.

The IADLR covers several countries of Europe, Africa and America.  Since 1948 IADRL has published the Journal: “Conscience et Liberte” in French, German and English and is translated in several other languages.

--Dr. John Graz, Secretary General, International Religious Liberty Association