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A Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Ghana has had an on-going land dispute with neighboring Muslims, reports Adventist Today (link). The conflict became violent in mid-February when 12 Muslim youth apparently incited a group of more than 1,000 Muslims to destroy the Adventist property. Excerpt from Adventist Today:
The initial investigation revealed that twelve Muslim youth “spearheaded the misunderstanding between the two religious groups,” reported GNA. The Daily Guide described the destruction of property on February 13, reporting that a crowd of more than 1,000 Muslim young people “stormed the SDA church premises near the Atebubu Government Hospital on Friday afternoon after the mid-day prayers with guns and offensive weapons.” The crowd then “set the newly built mission house ablaze and further brought down the walls around the church and demolished the temple.”
The destroyed mission house “accommodated close to 20 teacher trainees who are doing their teaching practice in the school. They lost valuable items such as laptops, cellular phones, books and certificates, among others,” reported Ghana Nation. (link)
After a regional security council mediation, both sides have signed a peace pact. Adventist leaders forgave the youth and gave the disputed land to the Muslims. In return, the Muslim leaders said they will build a new mission house for the Adventists elsewhere.
- Muslims and Christians at Atebubu smoke peace-pipe (Ghana News Agency, 23 Feb 2015)
- Security Council orders arrest of 12 suspects at Atebubu (Ghana News Agency, 23 Feb 2015)
- Muslim Youth Burn Church At Atebubu (Daily Guide, 14 Feb 2015)
- SDA abandons church after Muslim youth attack (Ghana Nation, 16 Feb 2015)
Featured blog image credit: "Flag of Ghana". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Ghana.svg#mediaviewer/File:Flag_of_Ghana.svg.
I interviewed Pastor Idel Suarez Jr for the Viewpoints interview series at Adventist Today (link). Suarez is the president of one branch of the Adventist Reform Movement, which started in Europe during World War I. I met Dr. Suarez in Germany earlier this summer when we both attended a symposium on how WWI affected the Adventist Church (link). In this interview Suarez shares about the movement's history, values and theology. Excerpt:
AToday: You've spoken to this already, but what were the major factors or events at the time of WWI that led to the Reform Movement in Germany, Russia, and elsewhere?
Suarez: The Reform Movement started in Germany. It was Germany that entered the war first, that made a declaration of war. And Guy Dail, secretary of the European Division, issued a letter, stating that Adventists should bear arms and go to war. That was August 2, 1914. Of course that letter caused a grave difficulties among the churches in Germany. Many believers—these were Adventists, they did not see themselves yet as reformers—stood up during Sabbath services, saying that we need to remain pacifist. It's one thing to be noncombatants, but it's a totally different position to be combatants, to bear arms, to kill, and to break the Sabbath.
AToday members can read the entire article here.
The other interviews in the Viewpoints series can be accessed here.
Adventist Church Files Amicus Brief for Workplace Religious Freedom Case at Top U.S. Court (Ansel Oliver, ANN, 27 Aug 2014)
The Seventh-day Adventist Church filed an amicus brief today urging the United States’ top court to accept the case of a Muslim girl who was denied a job because her hijab—a head-covering—violated a company’s policy. The Adventist Church’s “friend-of-the-court” brief is joined by seven other faith groups for the case Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. [complete article]
Adventist Church Sponsors Its First Religious Liberty Festival in Britain (Victor Hulbert, John Surridge, Dan Serb and ANN staff, ANN, 26 Aug 2014)
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Britain held its first religious liberty festival, in which Church leaders offered an overview of religious freedom developments and urged Church members to continue defending rights for people of all faiths and beliefs. More than 2,000 people attended the “Free to Worship” festival on Saturday, August 16, the second of a two-day event at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich. [complete article]
Adventist Leaders Speak Out on Unrest in Ferguson, Missouri (Adventist Today, 21 Aug 2014)
Pastor Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America, released a statement early Thursday morning (August 21) about the ongoing civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. “As a part of the larger family of America, Seventh-day Adventists grieve with Michael Brown’s family and extend our heartfelt condolences for their tragic loss," he said. "We are praying for our Ferguson community family who are in such great pain." [complete article]
Adventist Church’s Anti-abuse Initiative Set for August 23 (Ansel Oliver, ANN, 15 Aug 2014)
Seventh-day Adventist world church leaders are calling on all Adventist congregations to designate a portion of their August 23 church service to mark the EndItNow Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day. The Adventist Church’s annual day of emphasis brings awareness to the issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse and other forms of mistreatment. [complete article]
Denis Kaiser, a presenter at the recent symposium on World War I held at Friedensau Adventist University, has written a reflection piece on WWI for Adventist World--"Love Your Enemy" (August 2014, pp. 24-27).
Kaiser providers a brief history on the first world war and the Adventist response to it, including the formation of the Reform Movement. Kaiser explains:
As armies mobilized, young Adventists were conscripted and dragged into the machinery of war. Some denominational leaders in Germany lost their nerve and assured the military authorities that its conscripts would defend the homeland with weapons even on the Sabbath. At the same time they sought to convince church members that the Old Testament readiness for war was still applicable today.5
This position was, admittedly, not entirely new for Adventists in Central Europe. Yet the fact that these leaders practically told church members what they expected from them was certainly unique. A number of individuals voiced their discontent and opposition. The subsequent turmoil and contention could apparently only be stopped by disfellowshipping the “troublemakers,” resulting in further alienation, antagonism, and hard feelings. This internal “war” eventually led to the establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement.
Kaiser then turns to an ethical exploration of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, arguably the portion of scripture to which Christians (i.e., followers of Jesus Christ) should first turn when attempting to discern Christian moral responsibility. "In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) Jesus outlined the laws of His kingdom and gave us a glimpse of the wide framework in which He addressed moral and ethical issues. John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite theologian and ethicist, detected seven ethical principles in that sermon that I find helpful in considering how we can apply biblical principles under changing conditions and circumstances."
Kaiser concludes the article by considering the Adventist Church's mission. "God’s children should be characterized primarily by the attempt to resemble God’s character of perfect, excessive, and reconciling love to friends and enemies. Ultimately, Seventh-day Adventists consider it our mission to proclaim the three angels’ messages 'to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people' (Rev. 14:6) to draw people to Jesus so that they may not perish but be saved."
The complete article can be read online here.
The Adventist News Network (ANN) has released the following statement by Seventh-day Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson:
It is with great sadness and deep concern that we have learned of the tragic situation where tens of thousands of Christians and others have been subjected to persecution, coercion, killings, intimidation and lack of religious liberty in certain areas of Iraq and Syria.
I urgently call upon all Seventh-day Adventist Church members around the world to pray for the victims of this extremism in religious intolerance. We also need to pray for various religious minorities who are targeted because of their religious convictions and beliefs.
It is important that the international community act unitedly to stop the persecution of Christian believers and others who represent those who have lived in relative peace with their Muslim neighbors in the Middle East for hundreds of years. The Seventh-day Adventist Church will do its best to assist victims of this new tragedy, which reflects a total lack of religious liberty, and we will earnestly pray for a positive resolution to this appalling situation. May the Holy Spirit as the Comforter come especially close to those facing immediate persecution and death at this time.