President Juan Manuel Santos thanks the church for its contribution toward peace.

, with Inter-American Division staff

Colombia’s president signed a historic decree designating July 4 as a National Day of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Worship at a ceremony attended by more than 100 religious leaders, including Adventists.

President Juan Manuel Santos, speaking during the signing ceremony at Casa de Nariño, the president’s residence and government headquarters in Bogotá, said it was the shortest decree he had signed in six years but one that carried great symbolism and importance as the country moves toward peace after 52 years of armed conflict.

Alvaro Niño, religious liberty director for the Adventist Church in south Colombia, expressed elation that the decree was signed after the Adventist Church promoted religious freedom in the capital for more than a decade.

It was precisely 10 years ago that Niño and other Adventist leaders in Bogotá began organizing a group of religious leaders from various faiths to form the Colombian Federation of Religious Liberty and Equality, which has become a respected entity recognized by the South American country’s Interior Ministry.

“It brings me great joy to see this accomplishment,” Niño said. “This decree is a reaffirmation that the national government is recognizing the work of bringing harmony and acknowledging the religious identity of the Colombian people. We see great spaces opening up with the process of peace, with the positive work that churches can weave into the society.”

Colombia becomes the third country in South America to commemorate religious liberty and freedom of worship with a decree since the United Nations approved Resolution A/RES/68/169 on freedom of religion in 2013. Argentina and Brazil have also signed a national day for religious liberty and freedom of worship.

At Colombia’s signing ceremony, Niño took a moment to greet Santos and hand him a copy of Camino a la Paz (The Road to Peace) by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White.

“We wanted to give him this book that points out how it is possible for human beings to find the true way to a lasting peace by the grace of God,” Niño said.

More than 2 million copies of the book are being distributed across Colombia this year, church leaders said.

Santos thanked Niño for the Adventist Church’s contribution to Colombia and said the faith principles and values that the church fosters in the hearts of people leads them to peace.

“Churches have a function to do in promoting religious liberty and freedom of worship so the government can guarantee the peace process after more than 50 years of conflict in the nation,” Niño said. “The Adventist Church will continue to promote religious freedom so that people can learn their rights as they worship.”

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