'Commemorating Human Rights Day 2011: How Far Have We Progressed?'
Plenary Session ‘Human Rights Around Europe’
Freedom of religion, thought and conscience is the most basic human right. If one is not free to choose one’s own beliefs, then one is not free at all. It is for this reason that the United Nations recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Forced conversion is the act or attempt to change a person’s faith, belief or religious affiliation under duress by subjecting a person to involuntary confinement and threatening physical, psychological, social, or financial deprivation or harm. Forced conversion is the antithesis of religious freedom.
Shockingly, this criminal and immoral act is happening today not only where one might expect it in Darfur (against Christians and African religionists), Communist China (against Falun Gong practitioners), or Egypt (against Coptic Christians), but also in the advanced democratic nation of Japan. Over the past 45 years, an estimated 4,300 followers of the Unification Church (UC) have been subjected to this or similar criminal practices. Scores of Jehovah’s Witnesses have also been victimized.
Peter Zoehrer from Austria kicked off the first session speaking on the subject of the history of human rights. He ponted out how the original US and French declarations made reference to God or the "Supreme Being" as the cource of these rights. But the Universal declaration omitted this to "increase its universality". But it did mention human dignity as the foundation for all other rights. He illustrated its meaning by examining its antithesis: human slavery, which Mr Zoehrer pointed out was still alive today, albeit under the modern title of "human trafficking."
He reasserted the divine origins of human value: sacred, cosmic and eternal, going on to emphasie the power of religion propel to people to live for the greater good and achieve higher value. He concluded by stressing the importance of loving one's enemy as the greatest challenge we face individually and on the international level.
Dr J.W. Bertens and Saleha Jaffer gave their responses. The former entertained the audience with a very humorous look at the characteristics of the various European and other nations and their histories, enlivened by his witty self-deprecation combined with a keen sense of irony. In this clever way he led the audience to his conclusion that, yes, deep down we really are all the same. and the differences we see between us so many artifacts. The latter reminded us of how the gender difference resulted in many women worldwide receiving inadequate protection of their rights, particularly in her native India in relation to forced marriages. She concluded with an appeal for a greater respect for the principle of equality of all human beings.
The second session was begun by Jack Corley from UPF UK. His starting premise was our shared desire for a wolr of peace and harmony. Religion and politics should provide the means but too often seemed instead to be part of the problem. Peac is not only the abxence of conflict but needs to be actively built on the practice of true love.
He outlined a three-step approach, starting with reflection and reorientation, followed by reversal and restitution, then reconciliation and renewal, threading his own personal experience in with his illustrative examples.
Dr Hadziahmetovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina spoke of the "unculture" of conflict in her country scale and the tragedy faced in recent history, with 25% of population and 75% of economic potential destroyed.
Commemorating Human Rights Day 2011, Houses of Parliament
London, 9 December 2011
Human rights in North Korea: An International Coalition
To Stop Crimes Against Humanity
By Willy Fautré
North Korea is ranked in every survey of freedom and human rights as the worst of the worst.
An estimated 200,000 people are trapped in a brutal system of political prison camps akin to Hitler's concentration camps and Stalin's gulag. Slave labor, horrific torture and bestial living conditions are now well-documented in numerous reports by human rights organizations, through the testimonies of survivors of these camps who have escaped. Although there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding North Korea, the world can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse.
European Leadership Conference, Committee Room 14, House of Commons, London, England
“Commemorating U.N. Human Rights Day 2011: How Far Have We Progressed?”
Distinguished guests, Ambassadors for Peace, Ladies and Gentlemen! First of all, as Chair of Universal Peace Federation in Europe, allow me to warmly welcome you all to this European Leadership Conference which is aligned with this week’s United Nations’ “Human Rights Day”,
I am very grateful that so large and distinguished a body of people as yourselves, with a deep interest and concern to protect Human Rights and Freedoms, has taken the trouble to gather here for this conference. The advancement of the Human Rights of all peoples is an essential part of the core mission of Universal Peace Federation and, we believe, a key element in building lasting world peace. Championing the rights and freedoms of others takes deep and selfless dedication and commitment, and we truly appreciate all those who undertake such work.
Session IIA, 'Human Rights Around the World' panel included, Prof. Akiko Yamanaka, Vice Foreign Minister of Japan (2005-2006) speaking on 'Responsibility to Protect from a Human Security Perspective', Austrian Ambassador (Rtd.) Dr. Walther Lichem explaining the role of 'Human Rights Cities' and Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights without Frontiers International in a speech entitled ‘Human Rights in North Korea’ and Chair, Robin Marsh, Secretary General, Universal Peace Federation – UK.
"Commemorating Human Rights Day 2011: How Far Have We Progressed?"
December 9th - 10th, 2011
United Kingdom's Houses of Parliament and St Giles Hotel, London
We would like to extend a cordial invitation to you to attend a UPF European Conference on December 8th -10th to Commemorate Human Rights Day 2011. There is a draft programme below. The European Leadership Conference (ELC) sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP), is to be held in the United Kingdom on December 8th - 10th, 2011.