International law and religion symposium delegates speak at BYU

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Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of the Philippines addressed BYU students about becoming saints in a question and answer forum on Oct. 3. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Ninety-four invited delegates representing 46 different countries participated in the 24th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium held in the J. Reuben Clark Law School Oct. 1-Oct. 3.

The sponsored symposium held a question and answer forum open to all BYU students to provide an opportunity to hear from international religious leaders from the Roman Catholic faith.

Delegates spoke on the theme “Religion and Religious Freedom in a Changing World” in a series of keynote addresses and breakout sessions to invitees of the symposium.

Socrates B. Villegas, Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan, Philippines, spoke in the English session of the question and answer forum about how students can and have a great opportunity to become saints.

Villegas asked students in the packed room many rhetorical questions he said were questions every BYU student should ask themselves.

  1. “What does BYU want you to be?”
    • Villegas said BYU is for students to learn to be saints. BYU should be a “school of saints.” Students have the opportunity to be saints in whatever occupation they end up in.
  2. “What makes you happy?”
    • “If you are serious about becoming saints, there should only be one answer. What makes you happy? God,” Villegas said. “If God is with you, you can always be happy.” He said with God, everyone can be happy even if they have problems and bad experiences in their lives.
  3. “What makes you afraid?”
    • Villegas said people have forgotten to be afraid of sin. “Sin separates you from God,” Villegas said. “To be separated from God should be your only fear.”
  4. “Where are you going?”
    • Villegas described many places students will go in their lives and then explained everyone is but temporary residents of earth. Everyone is merely passing by to a better, more divine destination. “Where are you going?” Villegas said. “You are going to heaven.”

Villegas said students’ studies can enable them to become saints.

“You have plans for your life, but God has a holier plan,” Villegas said.

He said there are many things that are planned in life, but many of them won’t happen. Villegas said when things don’t happen the way wanted or planned, it is imperative to accept whatever happened and acknowledge the potential to become saints is still within reach.

Roman Catholic Church leaders Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Panama in the Roman Catholic Church, and Victor Emilio Masalles Pere, Bishop of Bani, Dominican Republic, spoke together in a Spanish-speaking session of the question and answer forum.

Both Roman Catholic leaders gave insight into the avoidance of corruption in today’s society, especially among youth. Both spoke on the wonderful opportunity youth have to follow Christ’s example and turn hearts individually toward God.

Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Panama (left) and Victor Emilio Masalles Pere, Bishop of Bani in the Dominican Republic (right), discuss what youth can do to become better and do better as a generation. (Savannah Hopkinson)

BYU religion professor J.B. Haws ran the question and answer forums. Haws quoted from Joseph Smith: “the first and fundamental principle of our holy religion” is “to embrace all, and every item of truth.” Haws said Smith wanted Mormons to get as much good out of the world in order to become the best members of the church.

Haws explained one of the greatest ways to follow these imperatives is by engaging in dialogue with people dedicated to a life of discipleship, faith and devotion.

“Expanding our friendships just seems to expand our hearts and minds, too,” Haws said.

The symposium was closed to the public for the most part, but students can participate in the upcoming event BYU is hosting on Oct. 13. BYU is hosting the Utah premiere of the new docudrama “The Sultan and the Saint” at 7:00 p.m. on Oct. 13 in the JSB auditorium.

The film depicts a significant moment of Muslim-Christian peacemaking, focusing on Saint Francis of Assisi and Malik Al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt in the year 1219 during the Fifth Crusade. A BYU faculty panel will introduce the film. The docudrama is set to air on PBS stations this December.

Students with interest in the International Law and Religion Symposium theme of religious freedom can check out the upcoming lecture in the “Faith, Family, and Society” series open to all students by Asma T. Uddin, Director of Strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, on Oct. 26 at 11:00 a.m. in the Varsity Theater located on the third floor of the WSC.