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Freedom is a word that President George W. Bush used 36 times in his Second Inaugural Address. He also mentioned freedom and liberty 46 times in his State of the Union speech. Men and women are giving their lives in the Middle East and around the globe for freedom. Freedom is a precious commodity that comes at a very high price.
In 2005, Christians will invest millions of dollars through a score of excellent groups defending religious freedom, faith and family within the United States. The battles on all fronts are crucial. We are very blessed to have these legal teams engaged on our behalf.
Outside the U.S. the battles for freedom, faith and family are as fierce as those at home, but the resources are very small. American evangelicals will invest $3 billion for evangelism, church planting and missions overseas in 2005. Yet only 1/100th of 1% of that amount will go to legal advocacy, such as going to court, drafting legislation or influencing government policies impacting freedom, faith and family. Reporting stories and providing humanitarian aid to the persecuted are very important, but they do not replace the need for legal advocacy.
Our mission is to mobilize advocates to meet locally, organize nationally, cooperate regionally and link globally to defend religious freedom, faith and family. In 1991 there were two nations – Canada and the U.S. – with lawyer groups proactively engaged in the public square. Today there are about 90 nations with active or emerging groups.
These are the advocates that you enable us to encourage and equip through your gifts and prayers. The following is our 2005 Global Report to you. Although there are encouraging signs of progress, we remain guided by Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15:
“Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Thank you for your commitment, as we continue…
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President
P.S. We just heard that the Chief Prosecutor in Sweden has appealed to Sweden’s Supreme Court to reinstate the prison sentence of Pastor Ake Green for his sermon on sexual morality. Thus, freedom of expression remains a front line issue in Sweden. I am told that Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor is a former Supreme Court Justice. Hello?
The Global Network Report
The Challenge: In 1993 Foreign Affairs published an article entitled “The Clash of Civilizations,” by Harvard professor Samuel Huntington. It proposed that conflicts between civilizations would dominate the future of world politics after the fall of communism. “The clash of civilizations” has become a shorthand term explaining conflicts between the West and the rest, particularly Christianity vs. Islam. But the real conflict is deeper.
The global clash is primarily rooted in the one-dimensional worldview of secularism and atheism that rejects any notion of God or a transcendent spiritual dimension. Secularism is the soul of the modern state. The notion that the secular state is benevolently neutral is false. The battles in the 21st Century for religious freedom, faith and family pit the Church and monotheism against the principalities and powers of the secular state globally. Advocates International provides one effective vehicle “for such a time as this.”
The Response: At a 1994 presentation to the World Evangelical Fellowship Religious Liberty Commission, I shared my concern that the three greatest challenges to the Church in the 21st century would be: 1) Islam’s fundamentalism; 2) Western secularism; and 3) the reemergence of dominant ethnic faith traditions intolerant of minority faiths, particularly the evangelical tradition. Advocates’ plan was to mobilize Christian lawyers at local and national levels to facilitate regional and global cooperation on issues impacting religious freedom, human rights, conflict resolution and professional ethics.
Advocates’ mission is to bear witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession by encouraging and enabling advocates to meet locally, organize nationally, cooperate regionally and link globally. The highlights show the impact the network is having in fulfilling Christ’s final command before his ascension to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world” (Acts 1:8).
The Big Events in 2004:
- 90 National Lawyer Groups:In 1991 only Canada and the U.S. had national legal groups proactively engaged in religious freedom, pro-life and traditional family issues. There are now 90 nations with emerging or active Christian lawyer groups serving Christ through their profession. The network has contacts with lawyers in another 35 nations. Christian lawyers meet in 1,000 cities around the globe. The number of national groups with Web sites and prayer calendars grows monthly.
- Six Regional Networks: In 1998 there were no regional networks facilitating national Christian advocacy groups. Today there are regional networks in place on each continent: Advocates Africa, Advocates Asia, Advocates Europe, Advocates Latin America, Advocates North America and Advocates Oceania. Each region has 20 to 30 nations within its network with a governing board. Prayer Calendars report on activities and issues within the region. Each has a Web site. The regional networks are active and independent. We provide staff to coordinate programs.
- Fourth Global Convocation:In 1998 we held our first Global Convocation with 46 conferees from 25 nations attending. At our fourth Global Convocation last October, there were 242 internationals from 80 nations joining 700 CLS members under the theme Doing the Impossible With Jesus: Overcoming Evil with Good Throughout the World. Conferees from the six regional networks spent the week planning and strategizing for the next few years. Several relationships developed during the week between the internationals and American lawyers in CLS city chapters who have since begun to partner with other nations.
- Web site’s One Million Hits:At the October 2004 Convocation we launched our new Web site. Since its launch we have seen over 300,000 hits from 142 nations. We project at least one million hits in 2005. Our Web site is promoted in part through 600,000 When Things Go Wrong cards printed in 24 languages (with the Web site address) that our network is distributing. The cards enable pastors, church leaders and others to track down a lawyer within their nation who can assist them in religious liberty or other issues.
Recent Activities Demonstrate a Unique Network:
Although there are many groups providing humanitarian aid, reporting on religious liberty issues, doing academic research and operating in human rights issues, there is only one global network linking local, national and regional Christian lawyer groups to defend religious freedom, faith and family. The following are some recent accomplishments:
- Preserving Freedom of Expression in Sweden’s Pulpits: AI’s intervention with Advocates Europe and Sweden’s Christian Jurists Network played a key role in the February 11, 2005, reversal by Sweden’s Appeals Court in the case of Ake Green who had been sentenced to prison for a sermon on the biblical view of homosexuality. Our warnings about the potential negative ramifications globally in locking up pastors in Sweden for unpopular sermons hit home. We consider this to be the most important religious freedom case globally in 2004-2005. In March, Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to reinstate Pastor Green’s prison sentence. We will remain active in this crucial case.
- Derailing Planned Parenthood’s Agenda in Latin America: AI’s intervention along with 17 national groups within Advocates Latin America and co-laboring with the Christian Legal Institute of Uruguay played a decisive role in the vote in the Uruguayan Senate that rejected Planned Parenthood’s attempt to make “secular” Uruguay the first Latin nation to adopt an abortion-on-demand law.
- Amici in the United States Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade:At the request of the Justice Foundation, AI enabled 49 lawyers from 16 Latin nations to file as amici in the United States Supreme Court for Advocates Latin America in support of Justice Foundation’s Petition for Certiorari to open Roe v. Wade for review.
- Drafting Laws on Religion in Kosovo and Serbia:At the invitation of Members of Parliament and government officials in Kosovo, AI facilitated the intervention by lawyers and judges from the Balkans and Europe to help draft a law on religion for Kosovo that would conform to European Convention standards. Local advocates are also giving input to a law on religion in Serbia.
- Challenge to Latin America’s “Life Begins at Conception” Guarantees: Advocates Latin America has plans to file a brief in Latin America’s International Court of Human Rights. The case was brought against Costa Rica by abortion rights groups seeking to reverse a decision by Costa Rica’s Supreme Court holding that since in vitro fertilization procedures endanger human embryos, they violate the principle that “life begins at conception” guaranteed under Costa Rica’s Constitution and the Latin American Convention of Human Rights. This case is crucial for preserving Latin America’s pro-life tradition.
- Helping Bulgarian Orthodox Obtain Justice in Europe’s Court on Human Rights: Rule of Law Institute in Bulgaria and Advocates Europe helped over 800 Bulgarian Orthodox believers petition the European Court for Human Rights challenging Bulgaria’s confiscation of 27 church properties in 2004.
- Networking Same-sex Marriage Challenge in Africa: Advocates Africa and the Christian Lawyers Association of South Africa are opposing efforts by several groups to get South Africa to approve the first same-sex marriage laws in Africa.
- Albanian Justices Visit the U.S.: AI facilitated the visit to the U.S. of 8 members of Albania’s Constitutional Court in cooperation with Pepperdine Law School. It will be the 30th judicial training activity sponsored by AI globally since 1993.
- Regional Conferences: Since 1991, AI has facilitated annual regional conferences in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin and North America. Conferences were held in 2004 and every continent plans conferences in 2005.
- Advocates Middle East: One fruit from the 2004 Convocation was a plan by Arab Christian lawyers throughout the Middle East to organize Advocates Middle East. In view of recent developments in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, Israel and Palestine, this may be a providential development.
- Advocates Central Asia: Another fruit from the Convocation has been that lawyers from several former Soviet Republics in Central Asia have developed a network that is growing in strength. Advocates Korea is taking an active role.
- Advocates Balkans: Lawyers from nine Balkan nations have had several meetings during the past 18 months helping strengthen their network in this region. They are giving input to laws on religion in several nations within their region.
As the Psalmist declared, “I shall not die but live. And will proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17). God continues to work through available people.