October 2004

October 2004

Dear Friend,

A few weeks ago we sent you our Global Convocation brochure, Doing the Impossible with Jesus: Overcoming Evil with Good Throughout the World. Nothing that I have ever been involved in compares to the potential impact that this Convocation will have for believers around the globe. There are over 300 delegates from 85 nations who plan to attend (see enclosed). For a staff of only three full-time people at the home office, our "mission impossible" is made possible as Christ gives us strength.

Why continue the global effort to mobilize Christian lawyers? Why not let up a little in the battle for religious liberty? Why not coast for a while? Why not retire to our cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains in "almost heaven, West Virginia"? Why not quit? I've just turned 60, and my five-year battle with cancer continues. Let me share why I won't let up, retire or quit.

The Perspective in 1994: Ten years ago I addressed the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship. WEF represents 160 million evangelicals through 124 national alliances such as the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S. I have served as the Commission's legal counsel since 1993. My 1994 speech to the Commission meeting in Europe opened with these words:

The demise of communism in the USSR, Central and Eastern Europe and the removal of various tyrannies in Africa, South America and Asia have given the world a euphoric few years. The perceived embrace of constitutionalism, the Rule of Law, democracy and free market economic concepts have been encouraging signs.

In the midst of the progress, however, there are troubling developments pointing to great challenges to religious freedom in the years ahead. The challenge posed by communism in the 20th Century may have been an easier challenge than those facing the Church and the world in the 21st Century.

There are three major sources of challenge to religious liberty in the world today: 1) The rise of fundamentalism and extremism in Islam; 2) The continued onslaught of secularism and the process of secularization which marginalize religion, religious values and religious institutions; and 3) The reemergence of majority faith traditions seeking preferred status and treatment by government.

Although religious liberty issues have significant theological, sociological and political overtones, they are first and foremost legal issues demanding competence in law and advocacy. Evangelicals must understand that skilled advocacy and training in law are essential to finding solutions to the religious liberty challenges facing us as we enter the 21st Century.

The Perspective Revisited in 2004: These comments are as true in 2004 as they were in 1994, if not more so. We are witnessing the "clash of civilizations" globally. Secularization is unrelenting in its effort to erase religious values from the public square, especially in Europe and the Americas. Majority faiths have preferred status in many countries. Conflicts rooted in religion are everywhere.

  • In 1987, African Muslim leaders met in Lagos, Nigeria to map out a three-prong strategy to win Africa for Islam: 1) impact law; 2) impact education; and 3) appoint Muslims to second-tier government positions. They have been very effective in implementing their strategy.
  • On the island of Sri Lanka, located off the southern coast of India, more than 50 Protestant and Roman Catholic churches have been burned to the ground this year by fanatical Buddhists.
  • Parliaments in countries with Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim majorities are pushing "anti-conversion" laws which would criminalize evangelism.
  • A pastor in Sweden was convicted for "hate-speech" for giving a sermon on homosexuality.
  • Powerful forces in Canada, Europe, the United States and Latin America seek to redefine marriage, family, and personhood.
  • In former communist nations, old barriers against minority faiths are resurfacing.

The Strategy: Advocates' approach has focused on putting practical legs to Christ's final words to his disciples before his ascension telling them that they would be empowered to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the world (Acts 1:8). Thus, we encourage Christian lawyers to: 1) meet locally (their Jerusalem); 2) organize nationally (their Judea); 3) cooperate regionally and cross-culturally (their Samaria) and 4) link globally. The fruit from these efforts include:

  • Christian lawyers now meet regularly in hundreds of cities around the globe encouraging and enabling one another.
  • At least 70 nations have active or emerging Christian lawyer groups focusing on issues such as religious freedom and human rights compared to only a handful of such groups 15 years ago.
  • Each continent has a network facilitating cooperation within their region, including Advocates Africa, Advocates Asia, Advocates Europe and Advocates Latin America. Latin America became the first region to link 100% of the national groups within their region. Each continent has a weekly Prayer Calendar sharing activities, news, needs, victories and setbacks.
  • Advocates' global network links lawyers in over 110 nations through weekly Prayer Calendars. A new website will soon facilitate communications among lawyers within the global network.
  • The network includes lawyers in 30 present or former communist nations, as well as 80 nations where significant religious freedom issues face believers.

Staying the Course: The need for Christian lawyers at home and abroad has never been greater. This is why I can't let up, retire or quit. Many delegates to the Convocation come from nations with less than a dozen Christians in their legal profession. Some have no Christian colleagues at all in the city where they practice. Being a Christian lawyer in these places is a very lonely calling. The Convocation encourages these committed professionals and also enables them to develop relationships with others within their region that may last a lifetime. They return home resolved to faithfully persevere doing the impossible with Jesus by overcoming evil with good throughout the world.

Finances remain a major challenge for most delegates. As you can see from the enclosed half-sheet, delegates include those from 27 nations where the per capita income is less than two dollars per day. It will be impossible for them to attend unless they receive some assistance. We thank you for your prayers and support on their behalf, as we continue...

Living in His-Story,

Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President

P.S. Your October gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar by grants we have received.