28 February 2019 | Zagreb, Croatia [Dragutin Matak]
World Day of Religious Liberty in Croatia under the motto, ‘Jesus – the exile and the traveller’, was marked by an award ceremony on 12 January 2019 in the beautiful hall of the University of Zagreb. It was also a 25-year celebration since the Croatian Religious Liberty Association was founded on 14 February 1994.
The main speaker, Dr Ganoune Diop, Secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), pointed out that migration and migrants are not a new phenomenon. He suggested that ‘Genesis’, the first book of the Bible, could also be titled ‘Migration’ as it relates to the relocation of individuals, families and tribes for various reasons. Diop communicated that what makes migrations in our time different is the extent and surprising reactions of those who could help and accept the refugees. Although the indifference and cruelty of those who only seek their own profit cannot directly be removed, individuals can and should promote and develop the culture of accepting the defenceless and thus promote the dignity of each human being because we are all created in the image of God. Like many exiled children today, Jesus as an infant had to flee to Egypt to escape the mortal danger of an egocentric king. That foreign country provided a safe shelter for Jesus and his parents despite the cultural and religious differences. For this reason, Christians should take the lead in accepting non-Christians who want to survive and secure their children a decent life.
Among those present at the gathering were representatives of many different religious communities and prominent politicians, including the former President of Croatia, Dr Ivo Josipović. The list included many other supporters of religious freedom and the dignity of men.
The President of the Catholic Council for Ecumenism and Dialogue, Bishop Dr Antun Škvorčević, sent a message to the attendees: “I congratulate all members of the Association on this Silver Jubilee and pray that God blesses you and gives success in your noble endeavours. May the Almighty, who in the cross of Jesus testifies how much He loves us, help that no religious community in Croatia turns into a captivating ideology, but that their members manifest their faith in love that liberates and accepts others regardless of their diversity. I warmly congratulate you in the Lord.”
Prizes were awarded to the Metropolitan Eparch of the Zagreb and Ljubljana Orthodox church, Dr Porfirije Perić, for promoting dialogue between religion and society, and to the priest Tvrtko Barun, the director of Jesus’ Refugee Service (JRS), for courageous and generous engagement with those who had to flee from their homes.
“One of the main ways in which the Association works,” explained Adventist Pastor Dragutin Matak, the General Secretary of the Association, “is to bring together as many people as possible to share universal human values, the source of which is God’s law of love. This is the reason why the members of the Executive Committee of the Association are comprised of representatives from different religious communities, with Slobodan Lalić, an Orthodox priest as the President of the Assembly; Baptist Pastor Željko Mraz as the President of the Association and Rabbi Luciano Moše Prelević as the Treasurer.”
At the end of the conference, Rabbi Prelević of the Jewish Municipality of Croatia and Montenegro, toghether with Pastor Slobodan Bobo Marčeta, President of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Croatia, addressed and greeted all the participants.
A new issue of the magazine Liberty was presented giving reports on the significant activities of the Association addressing the current challenges to religious freedom.
To find more about International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), please click here.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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