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June 3, 2005
OUR 14th ANNIVERSARY: Fourteen years ago today, I sat behind an empty desk with a big idea but no clue how to do it: how can lawyers serve Christ through their profession globally? I had no program, budget or staff. After an exciting and fulfilling ten-year tenure with Christian Legal Society (CLS), I stepped down when it became clear that their focus at the time would be on freedom, family and faith issues within the USA. I felt a call to “go global.”
My first visit to Moscow in January of 1991 lit a spark that has become an unquenchable fire. I have traveled over a million miles, touched down in 50 countries, and met thousands of lawyers, judges and national leaders. Many have shared that following Christ as a lawyer in their culture can be a lonely calling. When Elijah felt alone, God told him there were 7,000 in Israel who had not bent their knee to Baal. Today there are well over 7,000 followers of Christ within the legal profession around the globe. Advocates International’s (AI’s) mission is to encourage, enable and link these advocates.
AS IN THE DAYS OF ELIJAH: Many issues believers face today are the same as those Elijah faced in a hostile culture. On the “cook-off” on Mount Carmel, challenging 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah, Elijah told the people to stop wavering between two opinions: “If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (I Kings 18:21). Baal and Asherah were the god and goddess of sex. Baal means “lord.” Sexual license was rampant in Elijah’s day during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.
Sex-driven agendas are among the most controversial issues in the church-state arena today. Abortion on demand, same-sex marriage and the gay agenda, pornography and legalizing prostitution are in conflict with biblical standards on every continent. The global battle for religious freedom and the defense of the traditional family are linked. Followers of Christ in the legal profession are strategically placed to engage the “principalities and powers” globally.
THE BOOK OF ACTS REVISITED: The Acts of the Apostles reports that Peter, Paul and Silas went to prison because they talked about Jesus. The authorities told them to be quiet. They refused. Freedom of expression was the core legal issue facing the apostles and the first-century Church. Two thousand years later followers of Christ face the same hostility by authorities. They try to block sharing about Jesus. This is why freedom of expression is at the core of Advocates’ and CLS’s agendas. Once we lose the freedom to express our faith, the spread of the Gospel suffers.
A MOVE – AI AND CLS TO SHARE OFFICES: In August 2005, AI and the 3,300-member CLS will both move to new offices in Northern Virginia. We are excited at the potential benefits, including cost savings, flowing to both groups by this move. AI and CLS have worked together since 1992. CLS has hosted all AI Global Convocations and has provided most of the lawyers, professors, judges and justices that have traveled globally with us.
The Executive Director of CLS since 1994 is Sam Casey, a dear brother who is also the Vice Chairman of AI’s Board. In CLS and AI circles, he is 2nd Samuel and I am 1st Samuel because I preceded him as CLS Executive Director. In addition, the current AI Chairman is law professor and dean Lynn Buzzard, who was the first CLS Executive Director from 1971 to 1985. Thus, the current AI leadership brings together 34 years of CLS leadership. Our passion is mentoring lawyers.
Sharing offices does not mean that there will be a “marriage” or “merger” of the organizations. We will remain separate entities. We will work together and serve one another. We will seek to facilitate the regional networks in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin and North America. At a time when disputes and splits are common in the Church, our alliance will bear witness of unity and servant leadership. Our alliance will not just be a 2+2 = 4 event. With God’s help, the potential is an explosive 210!
HOW 1st & 2nd SAMUEL MET: My first conversation with 2nd Sam is a remarkable bit of His-Story. After clerking for California’s Supreme Court, Sam joined one of California’s most prestigious law firms. In time, he became managing partner of the Sacramento office, the capital of California. In a phone conversation with a CLS member in 1988, I heard that he had left his firm to do religious freedom advocacy full time.
After getting his new phone number, I immediately called him. He had just plugged the phone cord into the wall. As he stood up, the phone rang. It was I. This was our first-ever conversation. He told me that my resignation 7 years earlier as a partner with a major Los Angeles law firm had encouraged him to “go and do likewise.” I told him, “This will cost you! If you ever have a bad day, call me.”
We have been brothers in the battle ever since. When 2nd Sam was dean of Trinity Law School in California, I served on his Board. When I resigned from CLS in 1991, I recommended that 2nd Sam become my successor at CLS. He and I, along with Dean Lynn Buzzard and others, share a passion: We want to mentor the next generation of lawyers to bear witness of Jesus Christ. There are scores of groups engaged in the Culture Wars in the US and globally. But CLS and AI are unique in that they focus on mentoring lawyers who will, in turn, be salt and light in law and society. Our mission is essential “for such a time as this.” In 2004, I rejoined the CLS Board and now serve on the International Committee, along with 2nd Sam.
KNOW YOUR MISSION: At AI’s first Board meeting in 1993, it adopted the mission statement: to mobilize an international network of skilled advocates to promote justice, religious liberty and reconciliation. The statement came word-for-word from the mission CLS adopted in 1981 with one major change: “national” became “international.” The CLS DNA remains in AI’s current mission statement: Bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession by encouraging and enabling advocates to meet locally, organize nationally, cooperate regionally and link globally. Our mottoes were adopted independently of each other but are virtually identical: AI’s “Doing Justice with Compassion” echoes CLS’s “Doing Justice with the Love of God.”
THE WORLD IN 1991: 1991 was an exciting time to “go global.” The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 opened windows to Eastern Europe. When the USSR dissolved in 1991, opportunities surfaced in 15 former Soviet Republics. Democracy was on the march. Religious freedom became a possibility for millions of believers in places where persecution had been the reality for 70 years. Christian lawyers who had been denied licenses to practice could finally hang out their shingles.
It soon became clear that the best way to help the Church in former communist nations, as well as in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, was to encourage and enable lawyers to meet locally and organize nationally. In 1991, Canada and the US were the only countries with Christian lawyer groups proactively engaged in the public square on freedom, family and faith issues. A few countries, such as England, Ghana, Guatemala, Jamaica, Nigeria and South Korea, had national groups, but their primary focus was evangelism and fellowship rather than human rights, religious freedom, ethics and conflict resolution.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN STRATEGY: In meeting with lawyers, the example that I have shared time and again has been Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable. Sermons on this parable focus on the victim who had been beaten, robbed and left for dead and the Good Samaritan who had compassion and stopped to help. The innkeeper in the story is often ignored even though he had a major role. What would the Samaritan have done without the innkeeper? The innkeeper was positioned to care for the victim. The Good Samaritan encouraged and enabled the innkeeper to do so.
Likewise, when it comes to religious freedom and justice, national lawyers are the “innkeepers.” They have the licenses, languages, contacts and commitment to help those in need. Most important, in contrast to Americans or other “aliens,” local lawyers cannot “go home” because they are home. Who would you prefer representing you in Pakistan if you were charged with violating the Blasphemy Law that carries a mandatory death penalty? The best Pakistani lawyer or a foreigner? Moreover, sending American lawyers to work full time overseas is extremely expensive and very few are able to practice law in their “adopted” country.
THE WORLD 14 YEARS LATER: By 1998, Christian lawyer groups were emerging in 20 countries. We brought leaders from 25 countries to our 1st Global Convocation co-hosted by CLS. We witnessed the dynamics of internationals encouraging one another. The African delegates organized the African Christian Lawyers Network, now called Advocates Africa. By 2001, Advocates Asia, Advocates Europe and Advocates Latin America had also been launched. Today, each of the 6 regional networks sets its own agenda, governs through their own leadership and through the internet, circulates prayer calendars, sharing challenges and victories with one another.
Due to my 6-year battle with cancer, I have reduced travel considerably since 1999. I marvel at the growth that has occurred because of the initiative by lawyers on each continent. Even though I have only visited 2 Latin American nations, the Latin Network now links all 21 Latin nations. I have visited 7 African nations. This fall, Advocates Africa hopes to see delegates from 40 nations at the 5th Advocates Africa conference. In Asia, I have been to only 8 nations, but Advocates Asia links over 30 nations today. Advocates Europe has over 35 nations in its network even though I have only had Christian lawyer meetings in 10 countries. The seed we have scattered has taken root and is bearing fruit.
Today there are over 100 active or emerging national Christian lawyer groups cooperating through their regional networks. AI’s weekly Global Prayer Calendar and the regional Prayer Calendars serve as the glue that keeps the networks together. Our Global Website has already had visits from nearly 150 nations this year. Our home office of four full-time staff (smaller than it was in 1993) supports nine superb staff on four continents that serve the regional networks. It is “the best staff money can’t buy.” I do not know of any organization in the world that gives more “bang for the buck.”
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP: If I had known in 1991 the full cost of this 14-year journey, I might have stayed at CLS. I thank the Lord for giving me strength to lead AI while battling cancer for the past six years. I will know more about my health situation in a few weeks. Financially, the past 14 years have stretched our resources, but we thank God for his provision. Every day is a gift from the Author of His-Story. We thank all of you who have stood with us through your prayers and financial support. We remain in awe at what God can do through available servants. We will continue bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession, while…
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President
P.S. In Scripture, 50 represents the Jubilee. The following is the list of our 50-member Jubilee team.
Directors, Staff and Global Leadership
Board of Directors:
President & CEO Samuel E. Ericsson, Advocates International, Fairfax, VA
Chairman & Asia Focus Lynn R. Buzzard, Professor, Campbell U. Law School, Buies Creek, NC
Vice Chairman &
North America Focus Samuel B. Casey, Exec. Director, Christian Legal Society, Annandale, VA
South Asia Focus Ann Buwalda, Just Law and U.S. Director, Jubilee Campaign, Fairfax, VA
East Asia Focus Timothy C. Klenk, Bryan Cave, LLP, Chicago, IL
Balkan Focus Roger D. Sherrard, Sherrard & McGonagle, Poulsbo, WA
China & Europe Focus John E. Langlois, Consultant, Carey Olsen, Isle of Guernsey Parliament Deputy
Europe Focus Johan Candelin, Director, WEA Religious Liberty Commission, Finland
Latin America Focus Chip Zimmer, Int’l Director, Peacemaker Ministries, Billings, MT
Latin America Focus Kenneth W. Starr, Pepperdine University,Malibu, CA
Central Asia Focus Matt C.C. Bristol III, Ala-Too Ashari Fund, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
Samuel E. Ericsson Founder & President
Lourdes Pisciotti Director of Administration
Romi Kobayashi International Program Coordinator
Helen Hogye Communications Coordinator
Monica Welch Executive Assistant (Part-Time)
Latchezar Popov Director, Rule of Law Institute, Sofia, Bulgaria
Diana Daskalova Coordinator, International and European Prayer Networks,Bulgaria
Slavka Zaharieva Conference Facilitator, Rule of Law Institute & Advocates Europe,Bulgaria
Yordanka Bohotska Development Coordinator, Rule of Law Institute & Advocates Europe,Bulgaria
Baasankhuu Octybari Director, Rule of Law Institute, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Nomintuya Erdenebat Executive Assistant, Rule of Law Institute, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Vilma (Nina) Balmaceda Liaison, Latin America Network,Lima, Peru (residing in Nyack, NY)
Adebayo (Bayo) Akinlade Liaison, Africa Network, Lagos, Nigeria
Africa Bankole Sodipo, Lagos, Nigeria, President, Advocates Africa
Africa Teresa Conradie, J-berg, South Africa, Vice President, Advocates Africa
Central Africa - French Jean Musafiri, Kigali, Rwanda, Facilitator, French-Speaking Central Africa
East Africa Paul Ndemo, Nairobi, Kenya,Facilitator, East Africa Network
Horn of Africa Fmr. Justice Nardos Lemma,Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Facilitator, North Africa Network
Southern Africa Davison Kanokanga, Harare, Zimbabwe, Facilitator, Southern Africa Network
West Africa - English Emmanuel Goka, Accra, Ghana, Facilitator, West Africa Network
West Africa - French Alison Diarra, Koutiala, Mali, Facilitator, French-Speaking West Africa
Asia Soo-KeunKyung, Seoul, South Korea, President, Advocates Asia
Asia Min Choon Lee, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2003 President, Advocates Asia
Asia Gregory Vijayendran, Singapore, Facilitator, Advocates Asia
Central Asia Timur Kupeshev, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Facilitator, Central Asia Network
East Asia Dongsub Sim,Seoul, Korea, Facilitator, Advocates Korea
South Asia Tehmina Arora, New Delhi, India, Facilitator, South Asia Network
Australia Mark Mudri, Adelaide, Australia, Facilitator, Australia Network
Caribbean Shirley Richards, Kingston, Jamaica, Facilitator, Caribbean Network
Europe Latchezar Popov, Sofia, Bulgaria, President, Advocates Europe
Europe Bernard Biro,Paris, France,Vice President, Advocates Europe
Balkans Latchezar Popov, Sofia, Bulgaria, Facilitator, Balkan Network
Iberian Peninsula Fernando Soares Loja,Lisbon, Portugal, Facilitator, Iberian Peninsula
Russia Ekaterina Smyslova, Moscow, Russia,Facilitator, Advocates for Justice
Scandinavia Per Karlsson, Stockholm, Sweden, Facilitator, Nordic Advocates Network
Middle East Botrus Mansour, Nazareth, Israel, Facilitator, Middle East Network
North America Sam Casey, Annandale, VA, Executive Director, Christian Legal Society
Latin America Elizabeth de Larios, Guatemala, Coordinator, Latin America Network
Latin America Carlos Carrasco, Lima, Peru, 2004 Coordinator, Latin America Network
United Nations Ambassador Slavi Pachovski, New York, Liaison, United Nations
ADVOCATES IN ACTION: THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
The doors to freedom that opened after the fall of communism in the early 1990s have narrowed in recent years. The warm attitude towards Americans has cooled in some regions. AI’s approach to encourage local meetings and national groups cooperating within their regions is paying huge dividends. The issues today are as severe as they were in 1991, but there are now Christian lawyers positioned to act. In 1991, there were 2 countries where Christian lawyers worked proactively for the cause of freedom, family and faith. Today, there are over 100 active or emerging national Christian lawyer groups cooperating through their regional networks. AI has a facilitating role. We do not direct or control any local efforts. This is most effectively done locally. Let me share a few activities reported in recent weeks that are merely the tip of the iceberg:
- African nations face challenges from forces seeking to impose Islam’s Shariah Law. In 1987, Muslim leaders met to adopt a 3-prong strategy to win Africa by impacting: 1) law; 2) education; and 3) 2nd-tier government positions. Through Advocates Africa’s network, which links over 30 nations, Christian lawyers are addressing this challenge.
- Albania was once the North Korea of Europe. Today it is a role model for church-state relations in the Balkans. But under the requirements of a proposed Law on Religion, the entry level for new religious groups and churches would require at least 500 Albanian citizen members to register. Also, any speech that offends any religion would be prohibited. Local advocates are working together on this law.
- Australia’s Christian lawyer groups are experiencing unprecedented growth in activities and networking in recent months. After Europe, Australia may be the most secular continent in the world. The recent progress among lawyers is very encouraging.
- The Balkan Human Rights Network Steering Committee met recently to strategize on religious freedom and justice issues in this volatile region.
- Bulgaria was once referred to as the 16th Soviet Republic because of its Marxist stance. Last year, the police confiscated 27 Bulgarian Orthodox Churches used by the “New Orthodox.” The Rule of Law Institute, perhaps the most active national Christian lawyer group on the continent of Europe, is taking the lead in an appeal by 850 Orthodox believers to the European Court of Human Rights.
- Cambodia had perhaps the most brutal communist regime in history. In April, Advocates Korea and Advocates Asia leaders visited Cambodia, building relations with lawyers, judges and national leaders in hopes of promoting peace and justice.
- Cameroon’s Christian Lawyers Fellowship is addressing corruption.
- Canada’s Christian Legal Fellowship’s Executive Director, Ruth Ross, visited Jamaica to help address the same-sex issues facing the Church in Jamaica. Ruth and CLF have valuable experience to share with the Jamaicans.
- Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are working with Advocates Asia and Advocates Korea on many issues.
- Costa Rica’s Supreme Court issued a pro-life ruling that offended international pro-abortion groups. CLS Costa Rica and Advocates Latin America are defending the Supreme Court decision at the International Court of Human Rights in Latin America.
- Croatia, formerly a part of Yugoslavia, is hosting the 3rd Advocates Europe conference: Doing Justice With Compassion in June 2005.
- Dominican Republic hosted a meeting of Advocates Latin America and AI Chairman Lynn Buzzard to discuss a Continuing Legal Education program and a law school for Latin America.
- England’s leading religious liberty advocate represents a pastor who was severely beaten after a sermon on homosexuality. Recently, a Bar Committee tried to disbar the lawyer for representing the pastor, but a judge dismissed the disciplinary action.
- Fiji’s High Court will hear a sodomy case this summer. Christian lawyers in Fiji networked with AI lawyers globally to get information helping them prepare their brief in the High Court.
- France may be a “secular totalitarian state.” In May, Advocates France successfully defended the rights of an evangelical church under attack by authorities.
- India’s Christian Law Association is responding to efforts to pass anti-conversion laws that would make all conversion activities felonies.
- Israel’s Arab evangelicals met in May with over 500 attendees from 51 churches and evangelical groups. Israeli AI Arab lawyers participated in the conference.
- Jamaica’s Christian Lawyers Fellowship hosted Ruth Ross from Canada’s CLF, who addressed same-sex issues in May. Jamaica is a target of major international homosexual groups on these issues.
- Kenya’s Christian Lawyers Fellowship had its largest national conference ever in May.
- Malawi’s Christian Lawyers Association is taking root.
- Mongolia did not have 20 known Christian believers in 1990. Today there may be 15,000 and over 100 registered churches. In May, the government refused to accept any new church registrations claiming that there are too many churches already. The government wants to insure a proper “balance” between churches and Buddhist temples. The Rule of Law Institute (RLI) is working on this issue with its network of 50 Christian lawyers. RLI was successful in getting the Ministry of Interior (overseeing the police), the Ministry of Justice and the Police Commissioner to distribute 1,600 plastic “Miranda Rights Cards” to all arresting police officers in Mongolia setting forth the constitutional rights protecting all Mongolians.
- Romania’s Rule of Law Institute is working with Church leaders on a proposed Law on Religion that has several troubling provisions.
- Russian authorities are taking steps to hamper a prison ministry and legal aid group that has helped over 3,000 inmates with appeals since 1991 and distributed thousands of Bibles to prisoners.
- Singapore will host the 5th Advocates Asia Regional Conference in November.
- South Africa held hearings in May in the Constitutional Court with respect to amendments to the marriage act allowing same-sex marriage. The Christian Law Association of South Africa intervened. South Africa will host Advocates Africa’s 5th Regional Conference in October.
- South Korea’s Handong International University Law School – where AI Chair Lynn Buzzard is dean – will launch AI’s Global Law Student Prayer Calendar in the fall. CLS/USA has law student chapters at over 165 US law schools. We hope to see law school chapters partner with one another globally.
- Sri Lanka’s Advocates network is addressing efforts to pass anti-conversion laws.
- Sweden’s conviction of Pastor Ake Green for a sermon on sexual morality was reversed on appeal in March. Advocates Europe and our colleagues in Sweden helped in the appeal. The Supreme Court will hear this crucial freedom of expression case in the fall. The Green case may be the most important freedom of expression case in the world at this time because it is in Sweden.
- Uganda’s Christian Lawyers Fraternity has recently registered. It had highly productive meetings in May with the Uganda Law Reform Commission over amendments to the Marriage and Divorce Act.
- Uruguay’s Christian Law Institute helped derail the first abortion on demand law in Latin America. They will host the 5th Advocates Latin America conference in October.
- Uzbekistan’s local advocate was active in four major religious liberty cases in May.
- Vietnam hosted a visit by Advocates Korea and Advocates Asia leaders in April. Believers in Vietnam are facing major challenges.
- Zambia’s Christian Lawyers Fellowship has been reignited after two years of hibernation.
PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!