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Florence, Italy

November 22, 2018 | Rome, Italy. | Lina Ferrara, Notizie Avventiste.

Each year, worldwide, the Adventist Church dedicates one Saturday to religious freedom. In Italy, the day’s celebrations take place on February 17, an important day in history for the Italian Protestant movement; a day on which, in 1848, King Charles Albert conceded civil rights to the Waldensians. As of this year, the historical “Letters Patent” have endured 170 years. 2018 is special both for the numerous anniversaries and because, this time, February 17 falls precisely on a Saturday. The various Adventist communities have been invited to dedicate the day to religious freedom, in sermons and through planned events.

In Florence, on February 16thand 17th, the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Freedom (PARL) of the Italian Union of Seventh-day Adventist Churches (UICCA) has organized a convention with the theme of “Human Rights and Religious Freedom: The terrible, thrilling walk towards freedom”. Two days of meetings emphasizing two main items: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a recurrence of 70 years; and Law No. 516, which regulates the relationship between the UICCA and the Italian state, celebrating 30 years.

The Interview

Regarding the two events, Pastor Davide Romano, National PARL Director answered a few questions.

Lina Ferrara: 70 years after the approval and proclamation of the Universal Declaration by the UN, what is the current state of human rights?

Davide Romano: In short, you could say that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented the fundamental moment of reaching port after a long and arduous journey. It is a journey that spans centuries and involves the occurrence of many tragic events, including the Holocaust. During these last 70 years, all international entities and nations have been able to adopt sanctioned principles from the Declaration of 1948. These have been used as secure and unequivocal criteria and parameters for evaluation and self-regulation, regardless of the different interpretations that each culture has provided. Nonetheless, in many parts of the world, and not only in the so-called “third world” (a debatable expression), human dignity and the freedoms and rights that sustain it are not adequately recognized and guaranteed.

L.F.: Two words stood out to me in the title for the next meeting human rights meeting in Florence: happiness and youth. Could you expound on this?

D.R.: The “pursuit of happiness” is an expression that we have willingly adopted from the American Declaration of Independence and we believe that it can still be considered the highest and most noble goal to which a social democracy can aspire. Naturally, it’s an ideal to reach for, but we are conscious of its deep, and maybe permanent, outdated status. The youth are especially the ones in whom we wish to inspire a steadfast interest in the values of human dignity and of freedom, values that are uniquely political.

L. F.: Why, and how, are human rights and religious freedom so closely linked?

D. R.: Religious freedom is the qualified expression of freedom of conscience. All the rights that human beings pursue stem from their conscience’s decisions within a historical and social journey. Human rights, in their implied universality, therefore also include the right to freedom of religion and worship, as stated in article 18 of the Declaration, besides the right to not have any religion.

L. F.: This year marks the 30th anniversary of Law No.516, which regulates the rapport between the Adventist Church and the Italian state. What was the situation before the signing of the agreement and what did this law come to mean for the Adventist Church?

D. R.: The season of Agreements between minor churches and the Italian state began, as it is known, very late in respect to 1948, the year in which our Constitution was fully enforced. Article 8 holds probably the sad record of delay in the application of the Constitution to the ordinary Italian legislation. Still today, many churches and religions that were not able to finalize an Agreement with the State find that their right and their needs, in fact, are controlled by the old fascist law of 1929 regulating so-called “permitted cults”. For the Adventist Church, as a minority presence in Italy from 1864, to be recognized and protected by the Italian Republic meant finally feeling at home rather than being only guest in another’s house. Of course, the antechamber was long and often unpleasant.

L. F.: These Agreements between the State and churches and religious confessions, provided by the Constitution; are they enough or is something else needed?

D. R.: The principal treaty in the rapport between Church and State was certainly fruitful for the relatively few communities that obtained the Agreement from the mid-80s until today. However, it proved to be inadequate in protecting the great plurality of religious confessions that our constituents could never imagine would grace the Italian landscape. For almost two decades, legislative proposals have been put together to promote a uniform protection of religious freedom for everyone, without cancelling the Agreements already in place; however, Parliament has not yet succeeded in establishing any new law. This is not uncommon due to a lack of judicious autonomy in religious matters.