After a year-long hiatus, the North American Division hosts third Religious Freedom Prayer Breakfast
On January 13, 2022, more than 40 people from various faith traditions gathered for the third Religious Freedom Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America (NAD). The event recognized January 16 as National Religious Freedom Day in the United States and included a prayer for elected officials, community, nation, global health and healing, peace, religious freedom and unity. of mind. Representatives of several faith groups prayed over these topics, including participants from Adventist, Jewish, Muslim, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptist and non-denominational Christian traditions. Several NAD leaders and local church leaders participated with prayer and music.
Eric Baxter, president of the Silver Spring Stake—Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and senior counsel for Becket, a nonprofit, public-benefit legal and educational institute, delivered special remarks for the event, which was scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the prayer breakfast welcome, Orlan Johnson, NAD Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, provided a brief summary of the program and shared the significance of the January date for the event. . “We are here to celebrate an important day: National Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the signing in 1786 of Virginia’s historic Statute of Religious Freedom. It was a law by Thomas Jefferson, which included powerful language that later served as the basis for our First Amendment to the US Constitution – language that means you and I can each worship God in any way we see fit. appropriate.
Johnson further shared, “No matter what religious tradition we represent, we can celebrate together and be grateful to live in this country that respects religious freedom. Sometimes here in America, however, we begin to feel convinced that this is how it is, and this is how the world should be. But the Pew Research Center estimates that 80% of the world’s population lives in areas where religious freedom is severely restricted. The reality is that it’s a bit like looking in your car’s rear view mirror: the objects you see in the rear view mirror can come at you faster than you think! And if religious freedom is restricted in someone else’s garden, we need to be aware that it’s possible it could happen in ours as well.
During his address, Baxter noted that although people represent different traditions and beliefs, we can still work together toward the common goal of promoting and protecting religious freedom for all. “In today’s world, we have so many opportunities to feel division and discord. It is good, on the contrary, to focus on what brings us together,” he said.
Baxter told the story of one of the many religious accommodation cases he fought. Captain Simratpal “Simmer” Singh is a devout Sikh and decorated army captain who was forced to choose between serving his country and wearing the articles of his faith: his uncropped hair, beard and turban.
“He was forced to make the difficult choice between following his religion by serving his God or following his religion by serving his country. It was basically an impossible choice that no one should have to face,” Baxter explained. The case allowed the military to end its 30-year beard ban and issue new regulations stating that Sikh soldiers will not be forced to give up their religious turbans, uncropped hair or beards while throughout their military career.
“We need to stand in solidarity with those who don’t share our faith and even with those who have no faith at all,” Baxter said. “When we get to know each other, we can find ways to work together to protect religious freedom for all…We still have many challenges ahead of us, including a general decline in religiosity and a fairly widespread apathy toward the importance of religious freedom. ”
He acknowledged the difficult issues that have emerged in recent years, including the need to preserve religious freedom while ensuring non-discrimination. “I believe that the well-being of our society, and the world at large, depends heavily on our ability as individuals and religious organizations to support one another as we seek in good faith, with humility and compassion, to meet some of these challenges.”
Seven special prayers were offered during the event. The prayer for religious freedom was delivered by Kyoshin Ahn, executive secretary of the NAD. Ahn gave thanks for the gift of religious freedom – the right to love and worship God. “We know that not only is religious freedom central to our relationship with you, but we also recognize that it is the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good,” he said. he declares.
A Prayer for the Community followed from Jennifer Gray, Director of Interfaith Outreach for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.
“Our Lord, we pray that our nation, the United States, will remain loving and compassionate. Remove prejudice from our hearts and enable us to love our brothers and sisters of all faiths,” Missionary Umar Nayyar, of Wasaya Baitur Rehman Mosque, said during his prayer for the nation.
As he prayed for the elected, Lt. Col. YS (Lonny) Wortham, State Chaplain for the Maryland National Guard, said, “We pray for these officials, that you root them and root them in love. [for] their Lord, and it would not be by their purpose or their will, but they would hunger and thirst for the things of God. Father, we pray that You’ll save them from their pride; we pray that you save them from their desires for power, so that they may become servants of the people of this country and this nation.
Reverend Jerome Stephens, director of community outreach to Senator Ben Cardin, offered a prayer for global health and healing. He asked God to help overwhelmed healthcare workers during the pandemic. Stephens also said: “It is our prayer that all be encouraged. As we endure this season, it is our faith in God that [we know] a change will come for better health and better healing.
A prayer for peace followed from the Rev. Jennifer Hawks, associate general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Hawks addressed disturbing trends in society with domestic violence, racism and negative cultures in social media. She prayed: “Critics are ready to replay our mistakes and failures, trapping us in this negative loop, telling us we are never enough. May we find peace through rest so that we can be agents of shalom within our networks.…May the day soon come when we will treat everyone with the worth and dignity that comes from being created in your image.
Ivan Williams, director of the NAD Ministerial Association, closed the event with a prayer for unity of spirit.
“Oh, God, our maker of every race, tongue, language and people. From your providential hand, we have received our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You called us as your people and you gave us the right and the duty to worship you. Thank you for calling us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, accepting the faith of all,” Williams began.
He continued, “Give us the strength of mind and heart to easily defend our freedoms when they are threatened. And give us the courage to raise our voices – even beyond our own rights – for the rights of others. We pray [for] a clear, compassionate, and united voice for all your sons and daughters gathered together in your creation at this defining hour in our nation’s history, that with every trial withstood and every danger overcome now and with our children and grand- children… that this great earth will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all”.
This article originally appeared on the North American Division news site