Seven hundred employees from government and non-government sectors in the province of Negros Occidental in central Philippines came to the second public affairs and religious liberty convention held at the gymnasium owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Negros Occidental (NOC), January 29.
Themed “Proclaiming God’s Grace in the Workplace,” the gathering enabled the participants to work out ways by which they can strengthen their bonds as purveyors of religious freedom. Lawyers, elected public officials, teachers, office secretaries and other career employees took part in discussions, presentations and open forums. Asked of their impressions on this gathering, participants commented that they were “enlightening, inspiring, revealing, and mind-boggling but spiritually focused agenda.”
The Honorable Daryl Grace Abayon, a congresswoman in the Philippine House of Representatives, representing the Aangat Tayo Party-List and herself a Seventh-day Adventist, told the attendees about the two Department of Education (DepEd) memoranda granting Sabbath privileges to public school teachers and students who were victims, mostly in the past, of religious intolerance in their workplaces and schools. “Today, you can freely practice your rights as citizens to observe your religious beliefs without fear of reprisal from intolerant administrators and teachers,” said Ms Abayon. She was instrumental in the formulation of said memoranda after seeking the help of the country’s DepEd secretaries of the past and the present administration.
Atty. Harlin Abayon, who preceded his wife, Daryl Grace, as representative in the Philippine House of Congress and a very strong advocate of religious freedom in the workplace, challenged the Adventist public servants and also non-government workers to keep “your faith in the midst of forces that could influence withdrawal of loyalties to God and the tenets of the church.”
“If you are drawn to politics but do not have the backbone to withstand the temptation to remain advocate of truth and purveyors of faithfulness to the church, you better kill that desire,” Atty. Abayon advised the participants. “However, like Daniel and the three Hebrews standing true to their faith in the halls of public service, had rather followed God than lost their lives, you too can place yourselves into the hard grind of public accountabilities.”
Dr Jonathan C Catolico, public affairs and religious liberty (PARL) director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the southern Asia-Pacific region (SSD), invited the attendees to come into the picture of making themselves “messengers of the everlasting gospel in the workplace either as employees or employers.” He told the participants that “serving God does not wait for weekends or holidays when you go out to tell others about the love of Jesus because you can live His life in your workplace.”
Pastor Donald E Zabala, PARL director for the Church in Central Philippines, also admonished the participants to make use of their opportunities in the workplace to show how a Christian worker can be “different in all aspects of right workmanship and living.”
The convention went through smoothly according to the well-coordinated preparation done by Pastor Heber Bacolod, NOC PARL director, and the NOC officers and staff.
During the event, a league of Adventist lawyers was organized in order to provide legal assistance to church members who may be infringed of their rights in the conduct of their service while being faithful to their religious belief. [AND Staff]