Two years ago 21Wilberforce entered into a strategic partnership with the Baptist World Alliance and one of the key goals was to develop a mobilization and support program to equip faith communities to engage in protecting religious freedom and defending the persecuted. Central to this program are regional representative 21Wilberforce Ambassadors that work with churches, organizations and individuals to help identify and meet needs of churches and members facing religious restrictions or persecution.
Meet Latin America Ambassador Dr. Raúl Scialabba. He is an Argentine lawyer and businessman who for the past 40 years has held a number of key leadership positions with Baptist and other Christian organizations.
He currently serves as the President of the SBA (Argentine Bible Society) and is a member of the Council Board of the Salvation Army of Argentina. He has served as President and is currently the Vice President of the Argentine Baptist Association (Asociación Bautista Argentina) (ABA), a young association that since its inception has supported BWA and its various ministries. He has been involved in the leadership of the Union of Baptists in Latin America (UBLA) in different responsibilities and has held uninterrupted positions in BWA since the 1980s.
Dr. Scialabba has been a defender of religious freedom in Argentina and throughout Latin America. In addition to being a voice for Baptists in different areas of government, Dr. Scialabba currently serves as President of the Argentine Council for Religious Freedom (CALIR), a position he twice previously held.
He is the recipient of the Baptist World Alliance 2020 Congress Quinquennial Human Rights Award. When accepting the award, Scialabba said, “Ultimately our desire for religious freedom is nothing more or less than our desire to faithfully follow our Lord Jesus Christ. As Baptists we must treasure our commitment to religious liberty, which has been one of our standards for more than 400 years. We must be, as Baptists, the voice of the voiceless.”
21Wilberforce recently asked Raúl to share his thoughts about religious freedom and the church in Latin America and his hopes for the next generation of leaders.
Raul, you have a long history of working to defend those suffering for their faith in countries around the world. What led to your decision to accept the invitation to become a Latin America Ambassador for 21Wilberforce?
When I received the invitation from my friend Randel to collaborate I did not hesitate. I consider the partnership agreement between the BWA and 21Wilberforce to be very important and will allow all of us who have been working in the Religious Freedom Commission not only to issue statements and resolutions pointing out violations but to take action by relying on 21 Wilberforce and its structure.
Additionally, it will be an honor for me to help André Simao who does an extraordinary job as Ambassador.
What challenges do you see today in raising awareness in Latin America among church members, (the grassroots) about religious freedom?
I would like to draw particular attention to the work we must do to inform and raise awareness of the importance of religious freedom, through congresses, conferences, interviews with officials and political and religious leaders, seeking to improve even the legislation in force.
Any restrictions on religious freedom must be very vigilant and that action must be taken immediately, fighting for religious equality especially defending minorities.
Remember this: Religious freedom is like health, we value it the day we lose it.
What advice can you give to the next generation of young leaders who want to work toward advancing religious freedom?
First of all telling them that our desire for religious freedom is nothing more or less than our desire to faithfully follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
That we must honor so many brothers who have preceded us, who have contributed and currently contribute greatly to the defense of human rights and religious freedom.
Our honor to them will always entail a deep commitment to continue their work.
Also ratify the importance of interfaith dialogue in building peaceful convening among people of good will.
Although my country Argentina is going through economic and social difficulties, it can exhibit as an example for the world the coexistence and harmony between different religions, which constitutes an invaluable heritage.
On this basis, I would like to express some practical ideas to support interfaith dialogue:
(a)cooperate with other international institutions, Governments and religious leaders in order to develop education based at all levels on pluralism and dialogue;
(b) support the development of educational materials promoting a better understanding of different religions, as an essential part of activities related to a intercultural dialogue;
(c) actively encourage cooperation between university chairs and the departments of religious studies and culture of the countries, and participate in this task.
(d) To promote and protect freedom of confession and religious belief through legislative measures, where appropriate;
(e) To avoid intolerance and discrimination based on religion and religious belief;
(f) intensify interfaith dialogue and cooperation;
(g) encourage and support reflection on the place that religion occupies and should occupy in society and in the State.