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Religious Liberty - A SECOND SESSION AFTER SUNSET FOR ADVENTIST DOCTORS

Bern, Switzerland. | C. Cozzi

The International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty (AIDLR), which has its headquarters in Bern, Switzerland, was founded in 1946, in Paris, by Dr. Jean Nussbaum. The Association received the special support of Mrs. Eleonor Roosevelt, the first president of the Honorary Committee. The AIDLR believes in the universality of human rights, dignity of every human being, and the fundamental freedom of religion, belief and conscience for all people. It sustains that this mindset opens our horizons and presents opportunities for advocating in favour of people regardless of their political ideology, religion, culture, race, gender, education, or social status. Since its beginning, the AIDLR has defended not a religion or a church, but a principle, the PRINCIPLE of freedom of religion or belief for all.

In this context, at the beginning of the year 2016, two Romanian Adventist doctors, together with some Adventist leaders, requested the AIDLR’s advocacy and mediation on the doctors’ issue of conscience at the European Society of Anesthesiology (ESA), based in Brussels, Belgium. Dr. Liviu Olteanu, the Secretary General of the AIDLR, prepared letters and attended appointments with ESA administrators, advocating on behalf of the principle of conscience for all people. He concretely defended the issue of conscience of two Adventist doctors who were candidates for the ESA exam. Dr. Olteanu requested of the ESA, in 2016, “to reschedule the written test of the European Exam for Anesthesia and Intensive Care after sunset, on Saturday”; every year, the tests have always been on Saturday for the worldwide candidates.

In 2016, in his letter sent to the ESA Committee, Dr. Liviu Olteanu, the Secretary General of the AIDLR, underlined the following: “The issue of concern for the Seventh-Day Adventist doctors is that, for many years, the written examination for Anesthesia and Intensive Care has been scheduled to take place on Saturday, making it impossible for the believers of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to pass that exam solely on account of their religious beliefs and conscience. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is a worldwide church with 18 million of people who keep Saturday as a holy day and the doctors and students of this Church cannot participate in any exam for reasons of conscience.” To support his request, the Secretary General cited some international laws and declarations that defend the freedom of religion or beliefs, including the articles 18 of the ICCPR and of the UDHR, and also the UN’s art. 6—Declaration against discrimination and intolerance of  religion—from 1981: “In accordance with article 1 of the present Declaration...the right to freedom of conscience, religion or belief shall include inter alia...: (h) To observe days of rest and to celebrate holiday and ceremonies in accordance with the precepts of one’s religion or belief.

In their response to the AIDLR Secretary General on May 2017, both the ESA President and the Executive Manager mentioned: “The two letters we received from you on February 1 and October 17, 2016, have claimed all our attention and, as indicated in our intermediate e-mail responses, have been the subject of lengthy discussions in both the ESA Examinations Committee and the ESA Board meetings.

The ESA response continued: “As you know, the European Diploma in Anesthesiology and Intensive Care has been recognized globally for its quality, seriousness and ethical standard. Trainees from all over the world, from all geo-political environment and from all religions, major and minor, attend the different examinations provided by the ESA. To maintain the confidentiality and quality standards expected from participants and official institutions, the written examinations are taken simultaneously all over the world…and we need to deliver a flawless and trustworthy process. The ESA can therefore not change the organization of the examination for a minority and hence create an issue for the majority of other minorities.” Despite this stance, at the end of their letter, the ESA Examination Committee and ESA Board representatives conceded: “However, ESA is ready to consider a second session…after sunset on the conventional examination day for the Seventh-Day Adventists in Romania.

How then, we ask, can an examination process be developed for Adventist candidates? The ESA underlines the procedure.

“Please note that the examination day cannot be changed for the confidentiality reasons explained above; all candidates must receive equal chances. To guarantee that no candidate from the main session of the Saturday morning and afternoon would communicate the examination questions to the candidates of the evening session, ESA will be very strict about the fact that all candidates of the evening session must be isolated and without any means of remote communication for the whole examination day: no mobile phones, no computers, etc. Candidates of the evening session will be monitored during the day.”

“These extra costs for monitors, rooms and nightshift for the examiners will have to be covered. The Seventh-Day Adventist candidates wanting to take part in the evening session will have to contact the ESA Examinations Office to confirm this before June 15.”

Today, there are two Adventist doctors from Romania as candidates for the European Diploma in Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, organized by the ESA.

The AIDLR, through its Secretary General, Dr. Liviu Olteanu, appreciates the ESA’s wise and fair solution. The AIDLR expresses its thanks to the ESA Examination Committee and ESA Board for their understanding, respect and kind support in favour of freedom of religion and conscience, and on behalf of people’s differences, according to the international law.

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