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”˜The end of the 7th World Congress is really a beginning,’ says IRLA president

Denton Lotz, General Secretary emeritus of the Baptist World Alliance, was one of many men and women honored in the final session of the 7th World Congress for their perseverance in working for the cause of religious freedom

Three days of reports, discussions, and presentations came to an end April 26 with a program honoring men and women who have “walked the extra mile for religious freedom.” IRLA President Dr Denton Lotz urged the almost 900 attendees at the 7th World Congress to see the occasion not as the end, but as the beginning of a renewed commitment to work for religious freedom of all people, no matter what their faith tradition.

Lotz, General Secretary emeritus of the Baptist World Alliance, has served as IRLA president for more than 12 years. He received a Lifetime Commitment Award recognizing his outstanding contribution to the cause of liberty around the world.

IRLA General Secretary Dr John Graz also received a Lifetime Commitment Award acknowledging his leadership of the organization, which has resulted in an expansion of the global activities of the IRLA. Graz expressed his surprise and appreciation, but said, “For those of us who are involved this ministry, every time we see someone motivated to work for religious freedom, that is our award.”

Other awardees included individuals such as Miguel Nunez Duran, a Dominican Republic attorney who has been instrumental in the organization of the 7th World Congress, and Greg Hamilton, president of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association, headquartered in Washington state, United States.

Dr Delbert Baker, vice president of the IRLA, introduced the group of certificate awardees saying that no matter whether they had worked at the grassroots or national level, each person had lived up to their solemn responsibility to further the cause of religious liberty.

Dr Bert B Beach, former secretary general of the IRLA, also addressed attendees, referring to himself as the “historical conscience of the IRLA.” He spoke about the dramatic changes in religious liberty protection that have occurred during his lifetime, pointing out that when he graduated from college in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not yet exist. Beach is the only person known to have attended each of the world congresses, beginning in 1977, Amsterdam.
Beach drew on his years of experience with religious liberty work around the world to warn his listeners to “beware the windows of vulnerability” for religious freedom. He cited an increased level of persecution directed toward Christians, and said also that advocates should be aware that words they commonly use–such as “secular” or “proselytism”–have vastly different meanings, depending upon the cultural context. Finally, he warned that advocates should not concentrate only on legal or constitutional protections for religious freedom, because society itself–its level of tolerance and respect for minorities–is often the more significant factor in the ability of individuals to worship freely.

The 7th World Congress for Religious Freedom took place in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, April 24 to 26. It was the first World Congress to be held in the Inter-America region and the largest IRLA Congress to date, with almost 900 attendees and guests from 65 countries.
[Bettina Krause, communication director for the IRLA]

Recipients of the 2012 IRLA Awards of Honor and Awards of Appreciation

Award of honor, Dr Alberto de la Hera, for his work in promoting religious freedom for all as Director of Religious Affairs in the government of Spain, For his outstanding support of the International Religious Liberty Association for the past 20 years, and for his role in the organization of the annual Meetings of Experts

Award of honor, Pastor Cesario Acevedo, for organizing three Festivals of Religious Freedom, for hosting the first regional IRLA Congress in Inter-America, for hosting the 7th IRLA World Congress in Punta Cana, and for his support in promotion of Religious Liberty in the Dominican Republic

Award of honor, Senator Charles Schultz, for his successful leadership in the Religious Freedom Coalition in Colombia, and for his role in passing legislation which promotes the right of religious organizations to exist and to develop their activities under the protection of government.

Award of honor, Attorney Damaris Dias Moura Kuo, for her commitment to promoting and defending Religious Freedom in Brazil, and for her dynamic leadership of the Religious Freedom Association of the Bar Association of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Award of honor, Dr Israel Leito, for his promotion of Religious Liberty in the Inter-American region, and for his personal commitment to the success of the 7th IRLA World Congress–the largest IRLA World Congress ever to be organized.

Award of appreciation, Dr Miguel Nunez, for his work in promoting religious freedom as President of the Dominican Religious Liberty Association For his generous donation of time and talents, and especially for the many details he has cared for in organizing the 7th IRLA World Congress in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Award of honor, Pastor Roberto Herrera, for his role in increasing awareness of Religious Freedom in Inter-America, for his outstanding capacity to encourage and mobilize people to support and promote Religious Freedom, for organizing the First IRLA Congress in Inter-America, and for supporting the organization of Festivals of Religious Freedom which have been attended by thousands of people.

Award of appreciation, Attorney Alan Reinach, for his passion in the promotion of religious freedom in the Western part of the United States, for the organization of the first North American Festival of Religious Freedom in Honolulu in 2008, and for his radio chronicles, reports of events, and publication of articles.

Award of appreciation, Pastor Alvaro Niño Escobar, for his patient and efficient work as leader of the Columbia Religious Liberty Association, and for his role in the organization of many events, including the largest Inter-American Festival of Religious Freedom in Bogota in 2009.