From its very inception in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has supported human rights. Inspired by biblical values, the early Adventists were involved in the struggle against slavery and injustice. They claimed the right of every person to choose beliefs according to conscience and to practice and teach his or her religion in full freedom, without discrimination, always respecting the equal rights of others. Seventh-day Adventists are convinced that in religion the exercise of force is contrary to God's principles.
In promoting religious freedom, family life, education, health, mutual assistance, and meeting crying human need, Seventh-day Adventists affirm the dignity of the human person created in the image of God.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written and adopted by individuals who had emerged from the unprecedented destruction, disorientation and distress of World War II. This harrowing experience gave them a vision of and desire for a future world of peace and freedom. Coming from the best and highest part of the human heart, the Universal Declaration is a fundamental document standing firmly for human dignity, liberty, equality, and non-discrimination of minorities. Article 18, which upholds unconditionally religious liberty in belief and practice, is of special importance, because freedom of religion is the basic human right which undergirds and upholds all human rights.
Today the UDHR is often violated, not least Article 18. Intolerance frequently raises its ugly head, despite the human rights progress accomplished in many nations. The Seventh-day Adventist Church urges the United Nations, government authorities, religious leaders and believers, and non-government organizations to consistently work for the implementation of this Declaration. Politicians, trade union leaders, teachers, employers, media representatives, and all opinion leaders should give strong support to human rights. This would respond to and help reduce growing and violent religious extremism, intolerance, hate crimes and discrimination based either on religion or anti-religious secularism. In this way, the Universal Declaration will grow in practical importance and luster, and never risk becoming an irrelevant document.
This statement was voted by the General Conference Administrative Committee, November 17, 1998, and released by the General Conference Office of Public Affairs.