The first festival of religious liberty of Neuilly-sur-Seine took place on October 14th, 2017, in the Seventh-day Adventist church. The goal was to raise people’s awareness of this question and to remember that many populations are deprived of this freedom. Nowadays, intolerance and brutality against religious minorities intensify. Europe is not spared from this phenomenon. And when religious liberty is threatened, all the other public liberties are in danger: freedom of association, freedom of expression… Therefore, it is important to defend religious liberty for all and everywhere, to pray for those who are persecuted and to say we are doing it, and finally to put into practice Christ’s method: love, non-violence and conviction.
John Graz, the director of the International Center of Religious Liberty and Religious Affairs, was the main guest of this special day. He preached in the morning, and then he met the young people of the church in order to tell them about the experiences he lived in many countries. He especially insisted on the importance for us to be proud of our beliefs and identity of Christians.
In the afternoon, a symposium gathered John Graz, who spoke about the persecution of Christians in the world; Sylvie de Pontual (the former President of ACAT, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, and the current President of CCFD-Terre Solidaire, an NGO which fights against poverty in the world) who spoke about religious freedom in the Near and Middle East; Jean-Arnold de Clermont (the former President of the Fédération Protestante de France and the current President of Pharos, an organization which fights for conflict solving in the world) who spoke about religious freedom in Africa and Europe; Jean-Paul Barquon (the editor of the French Adventist Review and the director of the Departement of religious Liberty in France) who spoke about the principle of secularism and its link with religious liberty; and finally François-Xavier Dupont (from the Town Hall of Neuilly-sur-Seine) who defined the existing relationship between the Town Hall and the different religious communities of the city.
250 people attended this symposium. After, they had the opportunity to visit an exhibition about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, produced by Agapé Média.
Different workshops were offered to about 100 young people, one of which was organized by Pascal Rodet, the Youth Director of the Union.
Finally, a concert concluded the day, on the theme: I sing your name, Liberty! It started with the famous cello Suite by J.-S. Bach, performed by Rostropovitch during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a great symbol…