by Marina D’Costa
MATUNGA-MUMBAI, MARCH 31, 2014: Don Bosco Youth Services organized a forum entitled “Youth For Human Rights – Knowing it, Living it” for students and young professionals, with the support of Pax Romana ICMICA. Fr. Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and human rights activist from Gujarat was the resource person. The aim of the event was to awaken youth to issues on Human Rights and to capacitate them to know their rights, and at the same time stand up for the rights of others, especially the marginalized.
The event began with a moment of prayer, followed by an introduction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through videos on some articles. Fr. Cedric then spoke about specific human rights issues in India and narrated real experiences including those of the abuse of the personal dignity and land rights of women, dalits, adivasis and other vulnerable groups, often with the collusion of powerful persons coupled with inhuman disinterest on the part of the authorities. Placing human rights in the context of the Bible, he showed how Jesus stood up for the rights of people. He mentioned that the Church’s teachings support the implementation of human rights, justice and peace for all.
However, many of us aren’t sufficiently aware of the social reality and the political scenario of the country, while taking our constitutional rights for granted. He therefore enlightened the youth on how they could do social analysis, learn the basics of law, take up issues on human rights, build solidarity with other groups and individuals, learn from them and work towards a cause beginning with our own communities. The youth engaged Fr. Cedric with questions that disturbed them or made them curious. Towards the end of the session, they came up with a concrete plan of action that included exposure visits to sensitize youth on human rights, training, discussion meetings, campaigns and outreach on human rights, networking with other organizations. They also felt that resource mobilization to promote works on human rights, taking up issues that are of daily concern, forming groups to promote human rights in parishes are important.
The participants believed that each one can make a difference, no matter how humble the beginnings. There is a need for similar events, since knowing human rights is part of life and not a choice. As the youth concluded with a few songs, they resolved to carry on working to spread awareness about human rights and to build up momentum in other areas too.