[Photo Courtesy of the Inter-European Division]
France | Pedro Torres

Each year, the International Center for Religious Freedom and Public Affairs (Centre International pour la Liberté religieuse et les affaires publiques – CILRAP), located at Campus adventiste du Salève, celebrates Human Rights Day on the first weekend of December, in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCH), the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), and with the support of the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty in France (Association internationale pour la défense de la liberté religieuse en France – AIDLR France).

This year, on December 4th, 2021, the 6th Human Rights Day was held and was open to the public according to current Covid-19 regulations. It was held at the chapel of the Salève Adventist Campus. The event was attended both in person and via the Internet on YouTube.

The day began on Sabbath morning with a spiritual message by Dr. Ganoune Diop, entitled: "The hope of the promised feast". The message emphasized the importance of faith and hope in the face of suffering and persecution, recalling and awaiting the promised feast at the return of Christ. Dr. Diop invited his audience to remember the divine promises when difficulties arise.

The guests and speakers during the afternoon meetings included: Ibrahim Salama, Director of Human Rights Treaties, OHCHR; Ganoune Diop, General Secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA); Sandra Aragon, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR; Michael Wiener, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR; and John Graz, CILRAP Director.

The speakers emphasized the importance of human rights and our duty to defend, promote, and proclaim them. According to Dr. John Graz, "rights have been seen by many as principles for the Western world but not for all," and for this reason, it is becoming increasingly important to continue to celebrate and remember human rights.

This promotion and preservation of human rights concerns everyone, because, "rights are the expression of the best of humanity, and therefore, of universal fundamental values," said Dr. Graz.

This spreading and support of human rights seeks the benefit of humanity. As a result, these efforts are for the benefit of humanity. Dr. Graz added that "human rights stimulate good and, for that reason, sometimes disturb in some places." 

One "proof of the benefits of human rights is that many people seek to migrate to countries where these rights are respected," concluded Dr. Graz, pointing out the promotion of human rights as a means to improve the migration crisis.

Ibrahim Salama, Director of Human Rights Treaties, OHCHR, pointed out that "culture and religion are very easily instrumentalized" and that in order to "build universality of rights, we need to find the links between culture and universality."

One of the problems also noted by Dr. Salama is the disconnection between the theory of human rights and the daily reality of society. "To help states accept the universality and plurality of human rights, it is necessary to translate the legal language of human rights into a more practical language that reflects the diversity of the population," concluded Dr. Salama.

Dr. Ganoune Diop, General Secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association, pointed out, with powerful reasoning, the intrinsic nature of human rights: "To deprive a person of his human rights is to deprive that person of his humanity. It is to consider the individual less than a human being.”

Sandra Aragon, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR, affirmed that "one of the goals of human rights is the representativeness of human plurality," which allows the conviviality enriching the life of any society. According to Dr. Aragon, "Human rights are also a revolt of human beings in the face of what is unacceptable, articulated as a response to life, an implementation of a respectful and inclusive thought, fighting against discrimination and violence."

Michael Wiener, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR, explained the need for a multidisciplinary and multi-religious perspective, as "the ethical underpinnings understood in all religions play a comprehensive role in human rights."

Finally, Dr. Wiener explained that an example of "instrumentalization of religion is found in a state religion, resulting in discrimination of other religions."

The next meeting for the promotion of human rights and religious freedom coordinated by CILRAP will take place on May 7th, 2022 at the Adventist Campus of Salève.

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