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ISSUES: In the closing moments of last week's 56th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, a Member of Congress shared that religious freedom and human rights are facing the greatest challenges in over 15 years. I agree. Consider a few of the recent challenges - among thousands of others - facing believers around the globe:
- Anti-conversion laws pushed in India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere would make evangelism a major felony. Christian advocates are actively engaged in these issues.
- The Church in Kenya and the 200-member Kenyan Christian Lawyer Fellowship wrestle with how to be peacemakers amidst tribal violence leaving 600 dead.
- Albania's Parliament is considering giving preferential treatment to four religious groups - two Muslim traditions, Roman Catholic and Orthodox - over all others.
- 800 Bulgarian Orthodox believers await a decision by the European Court of Human Rights as to the return of their 70 churches confiscated by the police.
- Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury wants Muslims in England to have the right to follow Sharia law which would create competing and parallel legal systems.
- A Swedish group promoting the abstinence from alcohol caved in to gay activists and expelled Pastor Ake Green because of his biblical belief that sex should be only between a man and a woman in marriage. (See enclosed op-ed.)
STRATEGIES: There is good news that did not exist 15 years ago. By putting legs to Jesus' final words to his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem (local), Judea (national), Samaria (regional) and to the ends of the earth (global), Advocates' regional and global networks of Christian lawyers have seen the following progress:
L = Local meetings of lawyers in over 500 towns, cities and law school campuses.
O = Organized nationally in nearly 100 nations compared to 8 in 1991 (See back).
R = Regional networks link nearly 150 nations supporting one another on issues.
D = Disciple and mentor globally to bear witness through the legal profession.
40 REASONS TO PRAY: In order to address the great legal and social issues facing believers in the 21st Century and the crucial role advocates must play, we are very busy planning the 5th Global Convocation. The 40 Reasons to Pray, Attend & Support share our goals, hopes and dreams for this historic event. We hope you can come!
Your prayers and gifts enable us to respond to the signs of the time, while...
Living in His-Story,
Founder & President
40 REASONS TO PRAY, ATTEND & SUPPORT
THE 5TH GLOBAL CONVOCATION of CHRISTIAN LAWYERS
Co-hosted by Advocates International, Advocates North America
& Christian Legal Society/USA
Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington on Capitol Hill
October 6 - 12, 2008
Forty is a significant number in Scripture. It often marks the end of an event, era, or period of preparation that ushers in new blessings, opportunities, or challenges. Thus, the 40-day flood ended with God's blessing and covenant; the 40-year wandering in the wilderness by the Israelites led to the Promised Land; Elijah's flight from Jezebel ended 40 days later with God's silent whisper to "Go back the way you came"; the 40 days the Adversary tempted Jesus preceded the launch of his ministry; and 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus' Ascension began the Church Age.
In preparing for the challenges facing the Church, society, law and the legal profession in the 21st Century, we offer the following 40 reasons to pray, attend and support the 5th Global Convocation:
1. Bring glory to God, the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
2. Bring together 1,500 delegates from 150 nations who seek to bear witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
3. Provide a forum where law professionals from 150 nations can gather together for worship, prayer, fellowship, unprecedented networking and unmatched training.
4. Provide a forum addressing corporate governance of Advocates International and how to pass the baton of leadership from the current AI Board of Directors, dominated by North Americans and Europeans, to a truly Global Council with leaders from six continents.
5. Provide a forum for lawyers to hear some of the finest speakers in their profession.
6. Provide all delegates with a copy of Law Professor Mike Schutt's best-selling book, Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession,and challenge them to integrate the book's message in their daily practice.
7. Provide a forum for Dr. Emerson Eggerichs to address the theme of his best-selling book, Love & Respect, and provide a copy of the book to all delegates to help couples change the ways they talk to, think about, and treat each other.
8. Provide a forum for the Founding Dean of Handong International Law School and Advocates' Board Chairman, Lynn Buzzard, to lead Bible studies at the Convocation.
9. Challenge lawyers to embrace Advocates' L-O-R-D strategy by putting legs to Jesus' final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8 to be his witnesses by meeting locally (L) [in their Jerusalem], organizing nationally (O) [in their Judea], cooperating regionally (R) [in their Samaria] and discipling globally (D) [to the ends of the earth].
10. Provide a venue for Advocates Africa, Advocates Asia, Advocates Europe, Advocates Latin America, Advocates North America, Advocates Caribbean, Advocates Middle East, CLS/USA and CLF/Canada to hold their annual membership and Board meetings.
11. Facilitate regional and global networking among 100+ national Christian lawyer groups to provide legal aid for the poor, oppressed, imprisoned and disabled.
12. Challenge and facilitate young lawyers to "start well" in their profession and to seek out national and international opportunities to serve the Lord through law.
13. Challenge and facilitate lawyers in mid-career to "do well" in their profession and to seek out national and international opportunities to serve the Lord through law.
14. Challenge and facilitate senior lawyers to "finish well" by seeking out national and international opportunities to serve the Lord through law.
15. Facilitate strategic regional and global networking among existing national and international groups promoting religious freedom.
16. Facilitate building relationships leading to cooperation and exchanges between local CLS/USA, CLF/Canada and LCF/UK chapters with national Christian lawyer groups such as the Kenyan Christian Legal Fellowship, Rule of Law Institute of Bulgaria and CLS/Peru.
17. Provide a forum enabling churches to partner with national lawyer groups in promoting justice, rule of law, religious freedom, peacemaking and integrity.
18. Provide a forum to facilitate networking and joint venture projects among lawyer groups and global ministries, such as Voice of the Martyrs, World Vision, World Evangelical Alliance and Campus Crusade for Christ, that often need competent local counsel.
19. Provide a forum enabling Peacemaker Ministries to broaden its global movement promoting church-based conflict resolution and alternative dispute resolution programs.
20. Provide a forum enabling International Justice Mission to broaden and strengthen its mission addressing trafficking and related issues.
21. Provide a forum enabling the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and similar agencies and groups to build relationships with leading religious liberty advocates.
22. Provide a forum facilitating global networking among judges who seek to follow Christ within their profession.
23. Provide a forum facilitating global networking among law professors and other scholars seeking to follow Christian within their profession.
24. Provide a forum facilitating global networking among Christian law students.
25. Provide a forum to share with other regions the successful Continuing Legal Education program developed by Advocates Latin America.
26. Provide a forum to share with other regions the successful Law Student Moot Court Competition program developed by Advocates Asia.
27. Provide a forum to share with other regions successful national justice projects such as Advocates Africa's Project Nehemiah which encourages national African Christian lawyer groups to develop a variety of 52-day proactive national justice projects.
28. Provide a forum to share regional advocacy strategies for religious freedom and biblical family values as done by Advocates Europe and Advocates Latin America.
29. Provide a forum for groups reporting on religious freedom issues, such as Forum 18, Voice of the Martyrs, Jubilee Campaign, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Open Doors.
30. Provide a forum bringing together at least 25 organizations engaged globally in religious freedom, human rights, peacemaking and related legal issues.
31. Provide a forum challenging national and regional Christian lawyer groups to take a proactive role in promoting the rule of law and integrity by addressing the culture of corruption found within legal systems and the legal profession.
32. Provide a forum sharing effective media, communication and Internet tools, including national Christian lawyer group magazines, DVDs and Bible study materials, such as Law & Justice published by The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship of the UK.
33. Provide a forum to strengthen national Christian lawyer groups through training in organizing, resourcing, programming and fundraising.
34. Challenge all regional networks to be financially self-sustaining by 2011.
35. Challenge all regional networks to open a permanent regional office with a full-time staff funded by resources from within the region by 2011.
36. Challenge regional networks to link lawyers in at least 80% of the nations in their region.
37. Provide a forum for regional networks to share their experiences such as the successful model by Advocates Latin America to establish Permanent Committees addressing: a) religious freedom; b) human rights (justice); c) peacemaking; d) traditional family values; and e) corruption (rule of law & integrity).
38. Update Advocates' website with current information on all nations sending delegates to the Convocation and strengthen its Internet communication network.
39. Accomplish all of the above with sufficient funds to pay all expenses.
40. Depart the 5th Global Convocation re-energized to bear witness of Jesus Christ, thanking God for making it all possible, to the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.
THE THREAT TO FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION IN SWEDEN
By Samuel E. Ericsson
NOTE: In 2004 Pastor Ake Green of Sweden was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to jail under an amended "Hate Speech" law that added sexual orientation as a protected class. Green's sermon addressed the biblical view of sexual conduct, including homosexuality. He cited 65 Bible verses in his 45-minute sermon. In 2005 the Court of Appeals dismissed the conviction, as did Sweden's Supreme Court in 2006. Advocates International, Advocates Europe and several advocates in Sweden participated in Green's appeals. In February 2008, a teetotaler group in Sweden, under pressure from the gay community, expelled Green because of his beliefs. We have been asked to write letters and op-ed pieces to be sent to newspapers, parliamentarians and the board of the teetotaler group. Sweden is often a trend-setter on social norms, and we are concerned about the precedent the expulsion may have in Europe and around the globe. My article follows.
Pastor Ake Green is Sweden's version of India's untouchables. Initially, Green's accusers wanted him to be quiet about his beliefs and go to jail. Now they also want him excluded from society. The issue is no longer the freedom of expression. Now the freedom of association is under attack. Both times, the core freedom at issue has been that of belief.
Freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of conscience are inextricably intertwined. Like the yolk, egg white and shell of an egg, you can't have one without the others.
Green's accusers failed in their attempts to lock him up for a sermon on sexual conduct. Sweden's Supreme Court ruled that clergy may preach unpopular sermons. Sweden differs from totalitarian societies where the wrong sermon can lead to prison camps or worse.
When Green's accusers failed to get prosecutors to do their dirty work, they focused on the private sector. They discovered that Green has been a lifelong teetotaler and a volunteer with IOGT-NTO, a group active in Sweden 's struggle with alcohol.
In 2006, the University of Stockholm published a massive report, titled The Social Costs of Alcohol in Sweden 2002. The study showed in great detail the high cost in health care and loss of life related to alcohol. It also traced the productivity costs associated with sickness absences, as well as the cost of alcohol-related crime. The statistics for alcohol-related accidents, including traffic deaths, are staggering.
The study concluded that alcohol's annual cost to Sweden is 1% of its GDP. In 2007, alcohol cost Sweden over $3 billion. But the price tag for alcohol is not just financial. In 2002 there were 881 alcohol-related homicides and 531 alcohol-related suicides. Only God knows the number of families that have been hurt and shattered.
Sweden 's taxpayers pay a high price for this epidemic. Voluntary groups, such as IOGT-NTO, enlist members to donate their time, talent and treasure to the cause. For decades, Green volunteered to help those suffering from alcohol abuse and encouraged people not to drink.
Green's accusers dismiss his good works because of his biblically based belief that sexual relations should be confined to marriage between a man and a woman. Until recently, that was the accepted norm on Planet Earth. Green's accusers pressured IOGT-NTO to kick him out. Sadly, rather than defend a member, IOGT-NTO gave in.
The decision has serious consequences for Sweden: First, all Swedes lost. Those embracing any unpopular belief risk losing their right to associate with others.
Second, all private institutions, including businesses, associations and churches, lost. They are not safe from threats by those with vendettas out to destroy people embracing politically incorrect beliefs.
Third, Sweden 's global reputation has been tarnished. Sweden had an unblemished reputation for protecting human rights but lost some sparkle during the Green trials. As president of a global network linking thousands of lawyers, I don't know any credible advocate who approved prosecuting Green for his sermon. Likewise, I can't think of any human rights advocate who will approve Green's expulsion by IOGT-NTO.
It is time that freedom of association is fully restored in Sweden . It is time for IOGT-NTO to welcome back its member, Pastor Ake Green.
Sam Ericsson moved to the USA from Lidingo, Sweden in 1953 at age 8. He is a 1969 graduate of Harvard Law School and has participated in 50 human rights briefs before the US Supreme Court. He is the founder and President of Advocates International, a global network informally linking thousands of lawyers and advocates in about 150 nations.