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Education and Kindness: Two Vital Factors for Raising the Bar on Human Rights

Young human rights activists from 12 European countries met in Copenhagen in October for a human rights conference organized by Youth for Human Rights Denmark and sponsored by the Danish Ministry of Culture.

The focus of the conferences was ending discrimination of all kinds: racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, cultural barriers, and the challenges young immigrants and refugees face when navigating new cultures in search of a better future for themselves and their families. A common thread through the conference was that education on the 30 inalienable human rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights increases tolerance and kindness.

Youth for Human Rights Denmark’s European Human Rights conference fo 2021
Youth for Human Rights Denmark’s European Human Rights conference fo 2021

The conference began with a videoed message from Youth for Human Rights International Founder Mary Shuttleworth. “This year we are celebrating our 20th anniversary,” she said, expressing her appreciation for “the support, talent, expertise and passion of all who have supported the Youth for Human Rights campaign over the years. Today, our human rights programs reach, teach and inspire people in 27 languages in more than 190 countries, through 1,100 TV stations, with some 50,000 schools and institutions empowering more than 1.7 students around the world.”

Shuttleworth and Youth for Human Rights International are featured in an episode of Voices for Humanity on the Scientology TV Network on DIRECTV channel 320 and streaming at and on mobile apps and via the Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV platforms.

Conference speakers included Mary Consolate Namagambe, lawyer, influencer, and founder of She for She; Tim Jensen, associate professor of history of religion at Southern Danish University; Saiqa Razi, founder of EQRA, Non-formal Digital Schools; Nafiye Bedirhanoglu, Swedish lawyer, human rights activist and founder of Clear Law; Gregory Christensen, director of Youth for Human Rights Denmark; and Bashy Quraishy, chair of the European Network Against Racism advisory board.

Namagambe spoke of arriving in Denmark from Uganda at age 9 and how difficult it was finding her way in a totally different culture. “Everyone should have the right to define who they are,” she said, “We have to come to terms with our own prejudices.”

Tim Jensen spoke of the need for broad, neutral religious education in schools, which he said can help overcome prejudice and result in the promotion of human rights and freedom of religion.

Saiqa Razi works in Pakistan and Denmark to increase the quality of education and educational facilities. “For me, happiness is a basic right.” Children raised in a kind and happy environment grow up to be better human beings, she said. “If through the equal right to education, you plant the seeds of love and care, it will eliminate the urge to harm, discriminate or hate as adults.”

Nafiye Bedirhanoglu, told her personal story of arriving in Sweden as a Kurdistan refugee. The first in her family to receive an academic education, she graduated from law school and founded Clear Law, a firm that specializes in administrative and migration law. This would never have happened had she not been granted asylum in Sweden. She stressed the importance of human rights to ensure all may benefit from society’s resources.

Education was the centerpiece of the presentation from Youth for Human Rights’ Gregory Christensen. He presented an overview of the last 15 years of Youth for Human Rights Denmark and presented the program’s human rights educational resources. “In Denmark, it is mandatory for the teachers to teach the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said and spoke of the Youth for Human Rights materials that present all 30 human rights in a way that young people grasp them and understand how they relate to themselves and their friends and families.

Bashy Quraishy, Chair of European Network Against Racism, spoke of a policy implemented by the 2005 Danish immigration law allowing forced removal of ethnic minority children from their families, placing with Danish families or in homes, if authorities believe that the way the children are being raised does not resonate with Danish culture. He said that in Denmark, some 14,000 children have been placed outside their homes of whom 20 percent were removed without parental consent.

After hearing from these human rights leaders and learning of the issues they are confronting, the second day of the conference was a series of workshops. These were modeled after the Youth for Human Rights International Human Rights Summit, which, before pandemic restrictions on live events and international travel were held annually at the United Nations. Youth delegates honed skills that can help them increase their effectiveness as human rights changemakers. And they networked with one another and develop plans for expanding human rights education in their countries.

Youth for Human Rights International is the youth component of United for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, with over 150 groups, clubs and chapters around the world. They are dedicated to making human rights a fact through education on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Church of Scientology and Scientologists support United for Human Rights and make its educational materials available to human rights activists, educators, and civic and community organizations free of charge.

For more information on Youth for Human Rights International, watch an episode on founder Mary Shuttleworth on Voices for Humanity on the Scientology Network

The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.

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