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I have this fond memory of tabling one time on behalf of Amnesty International and asking a passer by to sign a petition (the specific campaign associated with the petition escapes me).
The person looked at me while they were walking by, smiled at me -- not in a happy way, but in a way that conveyed a sense of carelessness -- and then just continued on his way. While rejection of any sort is painful, I always used to find that 'human rights rejection' was the most hurtful, as I interpreted it as a form of not caring about social justice issues. I used to ask myself "Why would they not care about human rights like I do? How can they just walk away?"
However, as years have passed by and I have grown older, I have realized that in fact everyone does have an aspect of them that cares about other peoples human rights. The only difference is that while some are fully engaged in this process (and purposely I might add), the average everyday person is not and because of this, they may not have the same understanding of a complex social justice issue in the world or how just one signature from them on said issue can make a big difference, as a full-time activist may. But this doesn’t mean they don't care.
Human rights are this phenomenal concept that apply to all human beings in the world by virture of being human and must be promoted and protected by all human beings for the very same reason.
This was a theory that was understood in 1948 when the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNHR) was brought to force. The document -- which now serves as the grandfather of human rights -- set forth 30 basic principles that highlighted fundamental rights that all peoples of the world desereved regardless of their color, nationality, gender, culture, age or any other attribute. If you were a human being, you were a member of the UDHR club and that is an ideal that still continues to this day.
As someone who works in the field of human rights, my job is to promote this concept and to get all people to understand how important it is for them to act to protect and promote the rights of those who are not able to do so themselves. It can only be through this process of selflessly lending a hand, that the world can achieve full peace, unity and prosperity -- something we all want for ourselves and future generations.
This year marks the 64th anniversary of the UDHR. In celebration of the progress that has been made in the field of human rights, but also the recognition that we have so much more to do, Amnesty International Vancouver is proud to hold our annual letter writing event Write for Rights on Dec 8th, 2012 fro m 12-8p.m. at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library (350 W. Georgia Street).
The event is free and open to everyone. Come by anytime during the day to learn about the history of human rights; listen to guest speakers discuss the conflict in Syria as well as women's fundamental right to education; watch social justice related films; meet other activists and most importantly, take action on a number of Amnesty’s campaigns thru letter writing and petition signing.
Promoting and protecting human rights does not take a great deal of time at all. Anyone can do it. The first step however, requires that you don't walk away.
Toshio Rahman is the BC/Yukon Regional Activism Coordinator for Amnesty International Canada.
For more information on the Write For Rights event, please contact .