Speakers urge individuals to stand up for human rights
Sydney Baha'i House of Worship
The role individuals can play in standing up for justice and promoting harmony came into focus at two events organised by Baha’is in Sydney and Canberra to mark Human Rights Day 2014.
Following a service at the Baha’i Temple in Sydney on 7 December, three panellists addressed themes of law, education and youth, emphasising how individuals can play their part in furthering human rights.
A member of the advisory board to Multicultural NSW, Devpaal Singh, suggested that everybody has a civic duty to be aware of human rights, and to show more than mere tolerance of others.
“We have to colour a spectrum, with tolerance on one end and celebrating and cherishing and valuing equality on the other," Mr Singh said.
“Tolerating is not enough--we need a higher threshold if we are to move forward.”
Barrister Faraz Maghami emphasised the role of individuals in standing up for human rights.
If people see an unjust situation involving a denial of human rights, they should stand up and say something, Mr Maghami said.
“Change has always come when the most important individual has said something—and the most important individual is who? A member of the community. It can be anybody….
“It is for us all to ask, to see and to press for your own rights. That is the only way that lawyers can assist you with redress.”
Another speaker was Sophie Testart who is from High Resolves, an initiative aimed at empowering high-school students to act as socially conscious change-makers,
“Ironically it is most often the people not directly affected by a situation that can have the most powerful impact,” Ms Testart said.
“I believe that a crucial missing voice in the fight against domestic violence and gender inequity and violence against women is male voices,” she said.
“I strongly believe that in the fight against racism, there are sections of our community that have more privilege and certainly freedom from racial attacks than others. They can speak out against it in a different way than those who are subjected to it personally.”
Contributing to the discussion after the speakers’ presentation were Zeny Edwards and Patricia Jenkins of the United Nations Association of Australia and Jeremy Jones, Director of International and Community Affairs, for the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.
The theme of the Human Rights Day celebration held at the ACT Baha’i Centre on 14 December was “Unity in Diversity”.
Addressing the theme, Dean Sahu Khan, chairperson of the Canberra Interfaith Forum, called upon everyone to promote and practise peace among religions.
“We can be united in diversity if we listen and learn from each other in a spirit of cooperation and respect,” Mr Sahu Khan said.
A Baha’i speaker, Diwaka Prakash, noted that the international theme for Human Rights Day this year is “Human rights 365”, encompassing the idea that every day is human rights day.
Mr Prakash said that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, which bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.
Readings on the theme of unity in diversity were presented from ten different religious and spiritual traditions: Baha’i, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Sikh and Sukyo Mahikari.
Local musician Rupert Summerson performed on the shakuhachi, the Japanese flute, an instrument used in Zen devotional practice in Japan.
The program ended with a multimedia presentation containing images of people from around the world, set against the song “One” by U2.