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OUR 11TH ANNIVERSARY! It was June 1, 1991 when I left my ten-year tenure at Christian Legal Society to launch what has become Advocates International. At the time, I understood how Abraham must have felt when he "went out not knowing where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8). There was no plan, program or paycheck, but a growing passion to help the Church - as a lawyer - rebuild after the hellhole left by 70 years of communism. The idea of a global network of advocates reaching over 125 nations did not exist.
WHAT ARE "GREATER THINGS"? Advocates may be an example of what Jesus meant when he said: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:12-14) Perhaps Advocates is what Jesus was referring to in his story about the ten minas: "Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities." (Luke 19:17) I may be wrong on both counts, but there is no doubt that the past 11 years has been His-Story!
ON TO THE BALKANS: By the time you read this I will be in Greece, Albania, Bulgaria or Romania. My wife, Bobby, is with me for her first visit to the Balkans. It is my 30th visit to the region - but then who's counting! Bobby and I will be guests at a reception at Albania's Presidency. I will have a few minutes to address the President, First Lady, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, ambassadors and other dignitaries. I feel a bit like Paul on Mars Hill - a place I plan to show Bobby on our two-day stay in Athens.
"JUSTICE IS TRUTH IN ACTION": Truth was one of the greatest casualties of communism. On May 10, Advocates' Board member, Roger Sherrard - who called me on June 19, 1991 with the first invitation to visit the Balkans - spoke at Albania's Celebration of the Day of Justice. He has worked with their judiciary since 1992. In his remarks, Roger encouraged the judges with the theme, "How Far You've Come!" Each judge received an attractive paperweight with a quote by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, a committed believer: "Justice is truth in action." I used that quote in comments at our 2001 judicial conference. It has become the motto of Albania's judiciary and may soon appear over the Supreme Court's front steps! Roger is now arranging for eight members of Albania's Supreme Court to visit the U.S. for two weeks in July. We believe that our decade of sowing in Albania will bear fruit in years throughout the Balkans.
30 NATIONS WILL GATHER: A major reason for this trip is to attend Advocates Europe 2nd conference to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Last year, at the very moment that the World Trade Center attacks occurred on September 11, 2001 a group of 70 European lawyers from 14 nations were meeting in Portugal to organize Advocates Europe ("AE"). The group is growing and networking occurs daily. Believers in a secular Europe face great challenges to live their faith. Our advocates are engaged on the frontlines in virtually every country.
With two weeks to go, almost 200 delegates from 30 European nations plan to come - a 200% growth over last year! Nations include: Albania, Armenia (22 will take an 80-hour round-trip bus ride!), Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UK and the USA. The conferees include many of the finest religious liberty advocates in Europe. I will challenge the lawyers with The Marks of an Advocate in a Post-9/11 World, set out on the last page.
WHAT YOU DO WITH 6,000 POUNDS OF USED LAW BOOKS: Prior to the AE conference, I will present to Bulgaria's finest private law school over 1,200 used law books that were destined for the dump. Regents University Law Library gave them to us instead and we shipped them to Bulgaria. The books are in excellent condition and will be part of "Advocates International Reference Library at the school. (Perhaps this is a type of "very small matter" Jesus was referring to in Luke 19.) Latcho Popov, the director of our Bulgarian Rule of Law Institute, has a 10-year agreement to work with the law school on human rights, conflict resolution and ethics. At the book ceremony, I will address the faculty and students. Christ's Good Samaritan parable will be the theme.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY SYMPOSIUM: During June 4-5, I am a moderator at a very significant Law on Religion Symposium that Bulgaria's Rule of Law Institute has organized at the request of the U.S. Embassy. Advocates Europe Chairman, John Langlois, a 20-year deputy in Guernsey's Parliament, is also a moderator along with Latcho. The participants include Bulgaria's legal, political and religious elite. Bulgaria is at a crucial crossroads as their Parliament is considering a new Law on Religion. There are strong ethnic pressures to reestablish the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. All minority faiths could pay a heavy price.
ON TO ROMANIA: After the meetings in Albania and Bulgaria, I travel to Bucharest, Romania for my first visit there since 1994. In August 1999, I had planned to attend our first Christian lawyer's conference in Romania but these plans were derailed when we discovered my bladder cancer. Now that the Lord has helped me through this challenge, I am looking forward to meeting the Romanian Christian Lawyers Association. This spring, they made me their vice chairman - without ever having met me. Risky!
Religious freedom, justice, morality and ethics are some of the challenges the Church faces in a thoroughly secularized Europe. The major difference from the overt persecution common elsewhere is the subtle misuse of the "rule of law" to stifle believers. AE has an incredible task on its hands.
Although this newsletter has focused on Europe because of June's activities there, our networks are fully engaged on five other continents.
NEWS FROM DOWNUNDER: The Australasian regional conference brought together nearly 90 lawyers in Queensland, Australia, including participants from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. A couple of years ago it would have been difficult to get even 25 Christian lawyers together in one place in Australia. Australia may be even harder soil for followers of Christ than Europe. We praise God for the faithfulness of Elenne Ford who has taken the lead in organizing the lawyers in her region.
AFRICA ON THE MOVE: We are very excited at the progress of the 4th African Christian Lawyer Network (ACLN) conference in Accra, Ghana this August. The President of Ghana, a lawyer, will give the opening address and justices from several African Supreme Courts are scheduled to speak. We expect to see 30 nations send 300 delegates to Ghana.
In May, Jonelle Tetteh-Ocloo, Advocates' staff counsel and Africa Liaison visited our colleagues in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Jonelle came to the U.S. from Ghana when she was six years old. A 2001 Yale Law School graduate, she was amazed to see what Christian lawyers are doing throughout Africa. ACLN links over 10,000 lawyers!
LATIN AMERICA ON THE MOVE: The Latin American Christian Lawyer Network was organized in 2001. Two years ago, we had only two nations in our Latin "network." Today, the network is exploding with more enthusiasm than any other in the world. They hope to be the first continent to have every nation within their network this year at their conference to be held in September in Costa Rica. Advocates' Board member, Ken Starr, will be one of the speakers. We may even have a Christian lawyer from Cuba join us in Costa Rica!
ASIA ON THE MOVE: Advocates Asia was launched last October at a conference organized by lawyers and judges in South Korea. The South Koreans have caught the vision! They have already visited Central Asia and have plans for impacting law and justice in that region. They will send 30 lawyers and judges to Kyrgyzstan for a major conference in August. We expect to see at least 30 Asian nations send delegates to the second Advocates Asia conference to be held in October in Malaysia.
THANK YOU: Eleven years ago, none of this was in my wildest dreams. Words cannot express the thrill and joy of the journey through His-Story. Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue...
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President