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In January of this year I challenged all who read the newsletter editorial to share their educational journey to an understanding of the subject of Human Rights – the educational theme for CISV in 2017. As we head into the last month, I thought I would share what I have learned.


January’s editorial: In the home stretch of our year of focus on Human Rights.


I started the year with the premise that it is hard to understand what it is like to live without basic human rights if you are a citizen of a “developed” nation. Most of these nations have written into their founding documents the basic “rule of law” which guarantees their citizens these rights. But this premise was wrong.

Ghandi believed that all humans are inclined to choose to do good – that violence was a result of an individual’s belief that they were absolutely right and their target was totally wrong.

I naively ruled out the experiences of those who are victims of crime. It is true we have protections in our Constitution and Bill of Rights and a Judicial System in the U.S. that provide for the stable and consistent application of the law. However, there are groups of citizens who argue that certain laws aren’t applied consistently and evenly; who would say that there are flaws in the application of the protections that many of us take for granted. In addition, the insecurity felt by the victims of crime after the violation is a feeling that is not easily forgotten. In a developed country these two groups have access to legal redress and informal support systems that help them recover a sense of safety. These systems separate our experience from the daily experience of those who live in nations that fail to protect basic human rights.

I have learned that for many in the world, the 21st century has not brought progress in obtaining basic human rights. Where power is concentrated and resources are controlled by a few, life is often characterized by an insecure existence.

I read about Ghandi’s struggle to bring rights to native South Africans and immigrant laborers in that African nation at the turn of the 20th century; and, his efforts to unite India’s Muslim and Hindu populations to form a democratic nation as the British Empire dissolved. The approach he developed to great success – satyagraha – was adopted by M. L. King, Jr. in his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.

Ghandi believed that all humans are inclined to choose to do good – that violence was a result of an individual’s belief that they were absolutely right and their target was totally wrong. CISV teaches us to be open-minded and accepting of different opinions. That peace can be achieved through an understanding that our differences can be overcome by our shared similarities.

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