Published by Maja Ahac 12/12/2018
70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
DECODING ADRA GENOME. He has a firmness in the eyes, unsmiling lips, and wrinkles around the eyes, a gray beard and silver hair. Dressed in a white shirt and black frockcoat, this is the only preserved photo of John Byington, a pioneer, who lived in the mid-nineteenth century.
But there is more about Byington than just this a simple picture. A pioneer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he stood up for human rights in stark contrast to the majority of people at the time.
Byington was an abolitionist, holding strong views. He frequently both chaired and participated in abolitionist conventions, signing petitions demanding that the US Congress abolish slavery, which he called “an outrage” and “a sin”.
New historical evidence indicates that Byington and his brother Anson actively assisted fugitive slaves escaping to Canada along the famous Underground Railroad which ran near his home in Bucks Bridge, St Lawrence County, United states. Hardly surprising then that throughout his life Byington and his family enjoyed a close relationship with African Americans.
A significant number of Christian abolitionists actually left their own churches because those churches did not actively and loudly oppose slavery. A number of those “rebels” became members of Seventh-day Adventist church. This was true for Byington, a former Methodist, who later in his life became the first General Conference president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Another Adventist pioneer, Ellen White, stated: “Christ came to this earth with a message of mercy and forgiveness. He laid the foundation for a religion by which Jew and Gentile, black and white, free and bond, are linked together in one common brotherhood, recognized as equal in the sight of God.”
White called slavery ‘a sin of the darkest dye,” demanding that those who publicly defended it should be disfellowshipped. She forcefully wrote, “The law of outland requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey.”
While even some of the abolitionists refused to go so far as breaking the fugitive slave law, White recommended disobeying this Federal statute. She did this on the basis that this law conflicted “with the word and law of God.”
ADRA is the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist church. As such, ADRA and the church share a common genome. We encourage people to promote justice and human rights for each and every individual around the globe. In the same way that Jesus quoted from Isaiah as the basis for His ministry, we hold dear the words that we are “to proclaim good news to the poor… proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. [Luke 4:18-19 NIV]
On the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights we reemphasise that as Church members and ADRA employees, volunteers, partners and supporters, we believe that all lives matter, have equal value and should have equal access to all human rights.