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August 3, 1999
If you could impact one nation in the world, which country would you choose? If you could help believers in just one nation who do not enjoy religious freedom, would you step in to help? Let me share an opportunity to be a "good Samaritan" to an "innkeeper" who can help those believers wrestling with religious liberty and other conflicts.
We're getting ready to make history in San Antonio. As far as we know our 1999 International Convocation, which may draw participants from 75 nations, will be the largest international gathering of Christians in the law profession ever. Held jointly with the Christian Legal Society, we expect to see over 800 in attendance, including 110 who will participate as our team.
The Ministry Vision: Advocates International is guided in its mission and methods by Christ's Good Samaritan parable. Working relationally, professionally and spiritually with those in law and related professions, our mission is to encourage and enable a global network of skilled advocates committed to religious liberty, reconciliation and professional ethics. We prepare and preserve the ground through law so that evangelism, church planting, and missions can take root, be nurtured and grow. We identify "innkeepers" within a nation and region committed to these objectives and connect them with those of like mind nationally, regionally and globally.
In recent months we have been able to add several strategic innkeepers to serve with us globally. Our "specialists" now include: 1) Elizabeth Batha, a British lawyer who serves as our full-time advocate at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. 50% of her budget is underwritten by Christian Solidarity Worldwide in London; 2) Baasankhuu Octyabar directs our efforts in Mongolia; 3) Art Lees is our Legal Representative in China with offices in Chengdu. He makes regular visits to Beijing; 4) Nagi Kheir, an Egyptian immigrant, is our Director of Middle East Affairs operating from our main office; 5) Law Professor Lynn Buzzard oversees our legal training efforts from Campbell University; 6) Latchezar Popov directs our 100+ lawyer Rule of Law Institute in Bulgaria where they are engaged in 22 separate projects.
The 1999 International Convocation: Last year, Advocates brought together 51 innkeepers from 26 nations who returned home challenged to be the Daniels, Josephs, Esthers and Obadiahs in their profession. Their impact has already been significant. Many launched new Christian law groups, or re-energized dormant ones. Several have organized conferences, including those we are joining this summer in Bulgaria, Greece, Kenya, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Uganda and Zambia. In 1999, we want to impact 50-75 nations in a similar way by inviting 110 strategic innkeepers. The Washington, DC program will follow our week in San Antonio where many of our guests will build lasting relationships with CLS members and their international colleagues as occurred at last year's CLS/AI conference. (See flyers).
International Religious Freedom Roundtable: Advocates is also inviting key groups engaged in various aspects of international religious liberty for a full-day roundtable. (See "Proposed List of Roundtable Invitees.") The format will enable the groups to share their mission's focus and methods, distribute materials and facilitate networking with other groups, as well as meet our international guests. The potential impact of this roundtable meeting is mind-boggling.
The Moment is Now: This is my 30th year as a lawyer. It has been an incredibly fulfilling adventure. As I look back there are a few events clearly marked "for such a time as this." One of those was the 1998 Convocation. It was historic. We have no doubt that the 1999 Convocation can be even more so. We hope you will have a role in making this bit of His-story possible.
The Projected 1999 International Convocation Budget for 110 Participants is $200,000. This includes: $55,000 for int'l travel; $29,000 for U.S. travel; $60,000 for the CLS conference and $56,000 for related, general and administrative expenses. All first-world guests will pay their own airfare to the U.S. and our guests from developing nations will be helped with their airfare as needed. While visiting Washington, DC, all guests will once again stay with Immanuel Bible Church families saving us $60,000. The U.S. and European groups invited to the religious liberty roundtable will pay their own expenses. We will provide the facilities and some meals.
The Request: The yellow response sheet lists the countries where we have contacts with actual or potential innkeepers who would benefit greatly by attending the 1999 International Convocation. Is there one nation that may be of special interest to you, your family or your church that you would sponsor in whole ($2,000) or in part? If so, please indicate the nation for which you wish to serve as a "good Samaritan" and return it to us.
We thank you for your role in making this bit of His-story truly historic as we continue....
Living in His-story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
P.S. Turning Pain to Gain at Columbine High: On another front, we believe that there is a wonderful opportunity to impact our nation's school children in a practical way. As you can see from the enclosed Op Ed on the tragedy at Columbine High School, we have proposed that public school classrooms display the Bill of Rights alongside various versions of the Golden Rule. Teachers and students will then have Matthew 7:12 as a plumb line to refer to in class in evaluating attitudes, conduct and events. Several Members of Congress have expressed great interest and one Member is sending a "Dear Colleague" letter this week promoting the idea.
TURNING PAIN TO GAIN AT COLUMBINE HIGH
By Samuel E. Ericsson
Our nation is searching for a response to the tragedy at Columbine High. Some push for gun control as the answer. Others suggest we post the Ten Commandments as a first step to halt our moral freefall.
There is an alternative that will begin to restore civility on our campuses and in our society. It strikes a balance between individual rights and personal responsibility. It's called the Golden Rule. Since the Golden Rule does not focus on transcendent values but on personal conduct, our public schools can promote it without violating the Establishment Clause as may be the case in posting the Ten Commandments.
The Golden Rule is so universal, practical and teachable that students can easily grasp the concept and then set their focus on making it work. The Rule has been around for three millennia and is embraced by all major religions. Jesus taught, "So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets." The Talmud teaches, "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary." Likewise, Confucius wrote, "Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have done unto you." And in Islam, "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself."
The Golden Rule is also the thread binding our Bill of Rights together. I observed this while speaking to some fifth graders who had zero interest in constitutional law. My scenario went like this: assume you're old enough to drive and Grandpa has placed an old broken pistol for your dad on the front seat and told you not to touch it. While driving home at midnight, the police pull you over with sirens blaring and lights flashing. As the police crouch towards your car with their flashlights and weapons at the ready, what rights do you wish you had at that moment?
Within 20 minutes these 11-year old kids identified most of the criminal justice protections in the Bill of Rights, including: 1) the right to remain silent (the police might reject the grandpa story); 2) the right to counsel (talk to parents first); 3) limits on police conduct (search and seizure); 4) right to be tried by one's peers and not by the police (jury); and 5) limits on punishments (nothing cruel.) James Madison would have been proud.
Let's have our schools display the Bill of Rights in every classroom alongside versions of the Golden Rule embraced by various religious traditions. The role of public schools is not to save or condemn souls, but to prepare good citizens. The Golden Rule is a means to that end. It can serve as the plumb line to help students evaluate attitudes and conduct.
Children in kindergarten would learn that one reason it is wrong to hit others is that they themselves don't like to be hit. Fifth graders would learn that one reason cheating is wrong is that they do not want others stealing answers from them. In high school, the Golden Rule would offer opportunities to discuss why racism, sexism, road rage and other forms of intolerance are wrong, even evil. Daily news and campus events would provide a stream of examples of the Golden Rule being followed or violated. The Rule is no panacea, but it cannot be taught often enough because it is where principle meets practice.
Let's teach our children mankind's best relational principle. Let's teach them a guide that will work well in the 21st Century. Let's teach them that good can prevail over evil. Let's turn the pain at Columbine High into a gain for our nation.
Samuel E. Ericsson © 1999