cartercenterlogo.jpgFaith and Freedom
Protecting Human Rights as Common Cause

Hosted by Karin Ryan, Director, Human Rights Program, The Carter Center

The Holocaust shocked the conscience of humanity and promises were made to never allow such barbarity to again go unchecked.  But atrocities unfolded in Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, the Congo, the Sudan, and elsewhere. 

Why does the international community fail again and again to respond to these crises before they take on catastrophic dimensions? For we now know that each of these crises was preceded by many acts of lower level human rights violations. Had we paid attention to the available information and warnings about the slow escalation of violence into genocide or mass crimes against humanity, we could have mobilized international action.

Recently, faith communities have become active in raising awareness in the public and among policymakers about the drama in the Sudan, first on the conflict between the North and South, and later on the crisis in Darfur. The impact of this campaign has led to a higher level of diplomatic activity, though the crisis is far from over. 

What if people and communities of all faiths were to reach within their traditions to bring forward those teachings that call on believers to stand with the oppressed and protect and honor human dignity? What might be accomplished if the reawakening of faith that is taking place throughout the globe were accompanied by a heightened commitment to put a stop to human rights violations in many places where they are ignored?

There is a global community that has been growing since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 that is devoted to this ideal. This community of human rights activists includes people of all faiths and people who work from a secular or humanist perspective.  

The Carter Center’s 2007 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum, September 6-7, will bring together human rights activists from the Congo, Sudan, Guatemala, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia and Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, among others, with leaders of faith communities and policymakers to discuss how the international community can overcome inaction in the face of human rights violations before they escalate into mass crimes.

• Can people and communities of faith help overcome global inaction when human dignity and rights are violated?

• How can you and your community support the work of courageous human rights defenders who risk their lives to speak truth to power?

Join Karin Ryan, Director of the Human Rights Program at the Carter Center, in the conversation.