Delegates representing the BWA, EBF, and the Uniting Church of Sweden visit Azerbaijan
Between 31 August and 05 September 2013, four delegates visited Azerbaijan in order to asses the current human rights and religious freedom situation, as well as to express love and solidarity to the Azerbaijani Baptist Christians on behalf of the worldwide Baptist family and strengthen partnerships with Baptist churches in the country. The delegation consisted of Rev. Karin Åkesson, Senior Pastor of the local Church of Kortedala; Rev. Dr. Raimundo C. Barreto, Jr., Director of the Division of Freedom and Justice at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA); Rev. Christer Daelander, Coordinator for Human Rights in the Uniting Church in Sweden, and Religious Freedom Representative of the European Baptist Federation (EBF); and Rev. Dr. Gerard Willemsen, Regional Coordinator for Eurasia in the Uniting Church in Sweden.
The delegates met with several local pastors and listened to their stories. Despite all of the difficulties faced everyday by Christians throughout Azerbaijan, the delegates witnessed the unwavering faith, grace, compassion, and courage living in the hearts of everyone they encountered. The presence of this international delegation also became a meaningful source of comfort and encouragement to the Azerbaijanis as it reaffirmed that they are loved and remembered by their brothers and sisters from around the world.
Not only did the delegates visit local pastors and churches throughout Azerbaijan, they also met respectively with the Ambassador of Norway in Azerbaijan, the US Ambassador in Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with Religious Associations. These visits highlighted ways in which the BWA, EBF, and the Uniting Church of Sweden can partner with different organizations to collaborate for the improvement of the lives of Christians throughout Azerbaijan.
On 26 September, two representatives of the Uniting Church of Sweden read a document prepared by the delegates at the Religious Freedom Session of the 2013 Human Development Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw. The HDIM, which is organized by the OSCE, is Europe’s largest annual human rights and democracy conference. Other initiatives to follow up on the visit are underway. The BWA urges the worldwide Baptist family to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan.
Picture taken in front of the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan. Top row (left to right): Rev. Christer Daelander, Rev. Karen Åkesson, Pr. Ilia Zenchenko Bottom row (left to right): Mr. Dereck J. Hofan, Rev. Dr. Raimundo C. Barreto, Jr., Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar, Pr. Samir Sadiqov, Rev. Gerard Willemsen
Freedom and Justice Division Director Visits Colombia
In June 2013, a delegation from the BWA visited Colombia. Escorted by Michael Joseph (member of the Council of Evangelical Churches in Colombia’s Peace and Justice Commission [CEDECOL]) and Pablo Moreno (Rector of the Fundacion Universitaria Bautista [UNIBAUTISTA] in Cali), Raimundo Barreto, Alan Marr, and William Mathis visited local churches, pastors, and NGO’s in Bogota, Cali, and Buenaventura in order to assess the human rights conditions in areas that have been affected by ongoing violence, and to learn ways the BWA can partner with local groups such as the CEDECOL and UNIBAUTISTA to provide additional assistance. The Colombian population has lived in the midst of a Civil War for more than six decades, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, and has displaced more than five million people – more than 10 percent of its population. Indigenous and African-Colombian communities, and the poor in general, are the main victims of unwarranted violence.
In the midst of the stories of suffering and persecution, the delegation was encouraged and deeply impressed by initiatives led by Baptist pastors from Buenaventura, such as a soccer project, which has proved to be an effective way to reach out to members of local gangs to offer them an alternative way of life. These pastors conduct their ministry in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. They need international support, particularly to empower them to effectively work for change through projects aimed at poverty relief, support to internally displaced peoples, income generation, education, and trauma healing.
At UNIBAUTISTA in Cali, the BWA delegation also heard inspiring stories from pastors working with indigenous populations or with victims of bullying. UNIBAUTISTA has offered training for 10 years on Social Action and Peacebuilding not only to its own students, but to pastors and members of local churches in the most affected areas. Its faculty and students are involved in a series of roundtables aimed at sending input from the victims of violence to the current peace talks taking place between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Photo credit: Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación, Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá
In June 2013, Baptist World Alliance sent Rothangliani Chhangte, Director of Baptist World Aid (BWAid), to Jordan and Lebanon to visit Syrian refugee camps in those countries. For more information click here.
Chin Human Rights Organization Visits BWA April 1, 2013
On 1 April, 2013, a delegation from the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) visited BWA to discuss religious freedom violations in Chin State with Dr. Raimundo Barreto, Director of Freedom and Justice Division at BWA. The CHRO representatives expressed concern over human rights abuses happening throughout Chin State, Myanmar. Ninety percent of the Chin people are Christians. The CHRO has produced a report on the persecution of Christians in the Chin State, called “Threats to Our Existence.” The CHRO delegation toured through several North American cities to share their findings with the U.S. and the Canadian governments, and with many other organizations based in North America. They had previously held a similar tour in Europe. BWA helped to facilitate the visit of this delegation to the U.S. to share the report. In February, Dr. Barreto also led a visit of a Kachin/Karen delegation to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN in New York.
Left to right: Van Biak Thang, Thloui Zathang, Dr. Raimundo Barreto, Salai Khen Suan Khai Not pictured: Tha Lian
BWA Human Rights Visit to Nigeria
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent a team led by Raimundo Barreto, Director of the Division on Freedom and Justice, with Rosalee V. Ewell, member of the F&J Commission on Baptist-Muslim Relations and a World Evangelical Alliance Director, and Daniel Buttry, member of the F&J Commission on Peace, and a missionary with ABC International Ministries, to visit Nigeria from December 3 to December 10, 2012. The visit was part of a series of responses to the cry of the Nigerian Baptists in light of recurrent attacks by extremist groups which, among others, have affected a number of Baptist churches and individuals in the northern part of the country.
Pictured below is the team in front of the National Christian Centre (National Chapel), the primary Christian place of worship in Nigeria; where they stopped for a visit and prayer before traveling to the office of the President on Dec. 6,2012.
The BWA visit to Abuja included a two-day seminar on Conflict Resolution and Peaceful Co-existence held at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) of the Nigerian Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While the majority of the participants were Nigerian Baptists, other Christian leaders and some Muslims also participated in the different sessions of the seminar. The BWA delegation visited some of the churches that have been affected by wanton violence in the cities of Kaduna, Jos and Kafanchan, to express love and offer encouragement to them on behalf of the larger Baptist family. The team also visited the office of the president of the country and of two state governors to urge further measures that can assure the protection of all in the zones where violence has taken place, and to encourage continuous support of initiatives to promote reconciliation and peace.
Pictured below, Dr. Buttry uses tool called the”social barometer”to emphasize ways to respond to conflict.
The Nigerian Baptist Convention, which organized the visit in partnership with BWA, has expressed deep gratitude and appreciation for this visit. It was particularly meaningful that the BWA team was able to observe Human Rights Day with Nigerian churches, which were thrilled to know that Baptists from all over the world were praying for peace in their country on that day. According to the NBC president, Dr. Supo Ayokunle, this visit “has shown the serious consideration given by the global Baptist family to the cry of the Nigerian Baptists, and the BWA’s deep identification with them.” The BWA visit and the seminar on conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence were part of a process which by the Grace of God will contribute to overcome prejudice and mitigate violence. Talks are already underway regarding the matter of follow-up on the BWA team’s visit, in the hope that this experience can be used as a platform for exploring more opportunities for dialogue and building of greater understanding, which according to Dr. B. Uche Enyioha, chairman of the NBC, “Nigeria badly needs at this time.”
T.B. Maston Lecture Series: Dallas Baptist University Oct. 24, 2012
Dallas Baptist University invited BWA Freedom & Justice Director Raimundo Barreto to speak on the “Persecuted Church” for the T.B. Maston Lecture Series. Barreto delivered the sermon “Becoming the Church for others” to 1200 DBU students, faculty and staff. He was also able to meet with faculty in a smaller setting to discuss how Baptists should speak about Religious Persercution. Dr. Barreto shared that Christians are called to carry each other’s burdens, to give up on a “world-savior complex,” and “engage the world with the Gospel.”
He was also able to meet with 20 Brazilian DBU Students (pictured below) to share about the BWA and its ministries; specifically highlighting what the BWA has been doing to address religious persecution around the world.
METR Director Visits Haiti to Plan Bread of Life Event
Members of the Executive Committee of Haiti Baptist Convention with whom METR Director Vasconcelos met at HBC office in Cap-Haitian on October 19th to review plans for a “Jesus Christ, Bread of Life” event for Haiti Baptists tentatively scheduled for January 31 – February 1, 2013 on the campus of Christian University of North Haiti, Haut Limbe, City of Limbe.
Pictured below are the members of the Haiti Baptist ConventionExecutive Committee: Rev. Gédéon Eugene, President; Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Pierre, General Secretary; Rev. Ronel Mesidor, Counselor; Rev. Dr. Ludner Cardichon, Vice President; Rev. Aulnet Sainvil, Counselor; Rev. Gimpch Tony, Counselor and Rev. Joel Dorsinville, Consultant.
METR Director also traveled to Haut Limbe where he held another planning meeting with CUNH Rector Rev. Dr. Jules Casseus, Professor Laurel Elaine Casseus (Dean of the School of Fine Arts), Rev. Dr. Duky Charles (Vice President of Academic Affairs), Rev. Dr. Monel Jules (Dean) and Rev. M. Joel Dorsinville (Faculty member and Consultant to Haiti Baptist Convention). While in Haut Limbe, METR Director preached at Haut Limbe Baptist Church on Sunday October 21.
Pictured below is BWA METR Director Fausto Vasconcelos, at L’Université Chrétienne du Nord d’Haïti (Christian University of North Haiti) in Haut Limbe, City of Limbe, Haiti with Rev. Dr. Duky Charles (NHCU Vice President for Academic affairs), Rev. Joel Dorsinville (NHCU Faculty member and consultant for Haiti Baptist Convention), Rev. Dr. Jules Casseus (NHCU Rector) and Rev. Dr. Monel Jules (NHCU Dean).
Dr. Raimundo Barreto, Director of Freedom and Justice, and the Rev. Mark Greenwood, Coordinator of Social Action Department, Brazilian Baptist Convention, in partnership with BMS World Mission, represented the Baptist World Alliance at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 16 to June 22, 2012. The largest UN Conference to date, it was considered the most participatory in the history of all UN conferences. More than 500 activities took place at the Rio Centro Conference Center, in Brazil. Approximately 44,000 people participated in the conference, including 79 heads of State. The BWA’s active presence at this major conference and success in holding an onsite side event gave Baptists a good platform to voice their concerns in the discussions related to Sustainable Development.
BWA was the main sponsor of an official event at Rio Centro called “Ethical Implications of Sustainability: Religious and Educational Perspectives,” along with the United Methodist Church and other co-sponsoring organizations. That side event produced a document with recommendations to the Conference that was sent to each government negotiator present, and is part of the official texts on the UN Rio+20 site. The document has also been sent to Nick Clegg, UK Deputy Prime Minister, and Caroline Spelman, UK Environment Secretary.
BWA was also involved in the organization of an official side event on the Democratization of International Relations – Role of UN World Conferences – with the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relations with the UN (CONGO).
Barreto and Greenwood spoke in other offsite side events in Rio de Janeiro, including the full day event “Baptists and Rio+20”, organized by the Brazilian Baptist Convention. During his visit to Rio, Barreto was also invited to speak in a Baptist radio show, and preached in three worship services in Baptist churches on the weekend following the UN Conference.
B. H. Carroll Theological Institute’s Colloquy XV and Convocation: Arlington, TX
“Crying Freedom and Human Rights: Baptists at the Global Table,” was the theme of the 2012 Spring Colloquy and Convocation at B. H. Carroll Theological Institute, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Helwys’s A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity of 1612, believed to have been the first plea for religious freedom in the English language. Dr. Raimundo Barreto, Director of the Division of Freedom and Justice of the Baptist World Alliance, delivered a plenary lecture to each of the Colloquy sessions, and the 2012 convocation sermon.
Below, Barreto at B.H. Carroll’s commencement ceremony:
“Dr. Raimundo Barreto’s well-orbed presentations on various aspects of human rights challenged the colloquy attendees across the biblical, theological, historical and practical spectrum,” said Dr. Larry Ashlock, Fellow of Ethics and Pastoral Ministries, Carroll Theological Institute, and Director of the Baptist Center for Global Concerns.
Barreto laid the biblical and theological foundations for the need to advocate on behalf of the poor and those who suffer as victims of sin. He noted that Protestants are fairly adept at understanding the salvation work of Christ that liberates sinners, but sometimes lack the perspective that this same theology should also liberate the victims of sin. “Jesus had compassion – not just for the slaves of sin, but also for its victims.” Discussing the Baptist Roots for Human Rights Advocacy, Barreto focused upon the Baptist legacy deriving from the work of Thomas Helwys, who first advocated not merely a liberty for some, but for universal religious freedom for all persons. For this revolutionary notion, Helwys was imprisoned in 1612, where he died shortly thereafter.
Barreto also highlighted how the Baptist World Alliance works today to advocate on behalf of human rights at the global level, recalling the century-long commitment of the BWA in addressing violations of human rights, fighting for justice, working for peace, and monitoring religious freedom across the globe, and how the Baptist family networks to impact the world for Christ.
Special thanks to the BH Carroll Theological Institute for this invitation to speak!
UBLA Congress, Paraguay
BWA Director of Freedom and Justice, Raimundo Barreto, challenged delegates and participants at the congress to respond to the divine mandate to love and to practice justice, and to give witness to God’s love through actions in the wider community. He asserted that the principle of separation of church and state can no longer justify a separation of church and society.
Below, Barreto addresses UBLA Congress
Fausto Vasconcelos, director of the BWA Division of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection, reminded delegates of the BWA commitment to evangelism, informed them of the Jesus Christ, Bread of Life strategy, the current evangelism training program of the BWA and urged them to integrate the concept of “Jesus Christ, Bread of Life” into their ongoing programs of evangelism.
Below, Vasconcelos addresses UBLA Congress