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The European Sunday Alliance

While Seventh-day Adventists have long held that enforced Sunday worship would become an issue for Seventh-day Adventists in the last days, during my lifetime the trend here in North America has been in the direction of more, not less, liberty in matters of worship. When I was growing up my home state of North Dakota had stern Sunday-closing laws, as did most states. Those have largely disappeared, lingering now only in a few states where laws restrict the Sunday sale of alcohol.


We might be tempted to think we’re out of the woods on this matter, if things like this didn’t pop up:


“A work-free Sunday and decent working hours are of paramount importance for citizens throughout Europe. We, the undersigned, believe that all citizens of the European Union are entitled to benefit from decent working hours that, as a matter of principle, exclude working late evenings, nights, bank holidays and Sundays. We believe that today, legislation and practices in place at EU and Member States levels need to be more protective of the health, safety, dignity of everyone and should more attentively promote the reconciliation of professional and family life. We believe that social cohesion in the European citizenship should be reinforced.”


That’s the purpose statement of a group called The European Sunday Alliance, that  on 20 June 2011 pitched the idea of Sunday no-work legislation to the European Union’s Economic and Social Committee in Brussels


Is there more, or less, here than meets the eye? The group states its purpose in terms of social justice: “Together for decent working hours.” Europe is among the most secular regions of the world, which makes it seem improbable that this movement would ever find much support for a distinctly religious enforcement of Sunday. Yet most of the founding members are Christian groups, and specifying Sunday rather than “a day of rest” is troubling given Europe’s massive Jewish and Muslim populations. The group’s website says that “life/work-balance and social cohesion … depend on a vast majority of people [having] their lawful free time at the same time.”


Raafat Kamal, director for Public Affairs and Religious Liberty of the North European Headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, issued this statement:


“We support the notion that people need a day of rest to achieve a life/work-balance to maintain the health and safety of workers. This is modeled by God in the biblical creation week where he worked for six days and rested on the seventh. At the same time, we want to be sure that those who don’t have Sunday as a designated religious day of rest will be respected and tolerated. I hope that the partners in the European Sunday Alliance network who are trying to raise awareness of the value of synchronized free Sunday for European societies will appreciate the pluralistic dimensions of the European Union countries and the importance of respecting those with different religiousbeliefs and practices. I also trust that this advocacy campaign for protection of a work-free Sunday will not result in escalation of tension among different groups.”

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