Bulgarian Rule of Law Institute celebrates 30 years of advocating for Biblical justice at integrity-themed forum

By Chris Eyte |
RLI forum in Bulgaria
The Rule of Law Institute in Bulgaria celebrated 30 years at an integrity themed forum. | RLI

The Bulgarian Rule of Law Institute celebrated three decades of fighting for biblical justice in Bulgaria and South East Europe with a special forum focused on the importance of integrity.

The ‘30 Years of Rule of Law Institute (RLI) Forum’ took place at the Sveta Sofia Hotel, in the city of Sofia from May 31 to June 1. The theme was “Integrity as a quality of character, concept, essence and practice.” 

Latchezar Popov Esq., RLI chairman of the board of directors, recalled how the legal organization was first established in 1994 with the help of American-Swede lawyer Sam Ericsson, then president of Advocates International (AI) in the U.S.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Ericsson understood changes were needed in the legal systems across Eastern Europe. He encouraged Popov and others to unite in a new organization under a secular name: the Rule of Law Institute, similar to AI. 

“Sam considered me to be his ‘Timothy’ [similar to Paul’s Timothy in the Bible],” said Popov, “and the RLI was the first organization established through his assistance as a pilot project. 

“We were excited to have a vision and saw it will work for good, if we cooperate. Our cooperation has given a lot of fruit, even in Western Europe.”

After Ericsson’s death in 2011, the Bulgarian lawyers “had to do it by ourselves” in engaging with the world but Popov said the success of the RLI today is the proof of its original vision. 

“Integrity can open the minds and doors for a better impact on our societies,” added Popov, who became a Christian just before the Berlin Wall fell. He told Christian Daily International that his own “life verse” is Ephesians 5:9: “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.”

Popov said that RLI focused not only on fellowship between Christian lawyers but also  “religious freedom, family rights, pro-life, integrity under the rule of law, peacemaking, justice for the poor, and raising up ethics, as essential qualities of character.”

“We thrive to be a light for Christian and non-Christian lawyers and law students, helping them to be wise advisors of this world, not losing sight of the established secular laws,” he added.

Special speaker at the Forum was Dr Corey Ciocchetti, a business ethics and legal study academic from the University of Denver, who spoke on “integrity as a quality of character.”

“He wrote a book on integrity,” Popov said, “and because of this I invited him to be the kick-off speaker during the first night of our forum, on the subject of integrity.”

Apart from the overall celebrations, the Forum involved lots of group discussions and reports. There was also voting in four sessions in response to 12 questions, again related to the subject of integrity.

Second day sessions were led by Federal Judge Eric Brugink from the U.S., Dr Kostadin Nushev from Sofia University in Bulgaria and Judge Alberto Boetti from Italy.

Popov has been instrumental in opening other RLI bodies in Northern Macedonia and Ukraine. He may plan further openings in other southern and eastern countries in Europe once the war in Ukraine ends and there is peace. 

More than 200 Bulgarian legal experts are affiliated with RLI, which itself is a member of Advocates Europe, and the Bulgarian Union of Jurists.

RLI works under a guiding principle given by Jesus Christ: “Treat others as well as you want to be treated.” The work of the legal body is multifarious and involves networking with Bulgarian professionals on legal matters, supporting churches on religious freedom issues, and helping the country with challenges as a member of the European Union.

During the past 30 years, with organized events, RLI has guided more than 1,000 lawyers, faith leaders, business professionals and students via seminars and conferences on legal issues.