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August 2019
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United Nations Relations

NGO Week of Spirituality Focuses on Human Rights

The UN NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns (CSVGC-NY) held a Week of Spirituality at the United Nations from October 20-26 on the theme: “Honoring the Spirit of the United Nations: Our Commitment to Making the UN Declaration of Human Rights Come Alive.”

The CSVGC-NY, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organized programs that touched upon the essence of Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy in a series of focused meditations, workshops, panel discussions, group interchanges, music, and dance performances in the UNICEF building across the street from the UN headquarters in New York.

Eleven working groups of the committee explored the challenges and successes in making the principles contained in the Declaration come alive, today and in the future. The week’s activities recognized that spirituality and adherence to universal values, as expressed in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are key to providing solutions to global concerns.

“Where, after all, do human universal rights begin? In small places, close to home--so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of individual people: the neighborhood they live in; the school or college they attend; the factory, farm, or office where they work. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. After the death of her husband, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she served as the U.S. delegate to the UN General Assembly and chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Peace Federation collaborated in panel discussion on October 22, 2008, conducted by the Spiritual History of the UN Working Group, with the theme: “The UN: Bridging the Historical Divides of the Past and Future for a New World Renaissance.” Dr. Thomas Downes, the panel chair, put together an articulate panel of international experts who put forward the principles of the founding spirit of the UN.

Dr. Loch Kelly, facilitator for the Awakened Awareness Series, talked about the meditative transcendental state as one which evolves an individual towards an experiential oneness with people, without any sense of separation. He sees meditation as a tool in fulfilling the unifying role of the UN, not only on an individual level, but between nations.

Dr. Thomas Walsh, Secretary General of the Universal Peace Federation, expressed the importance of the inclusion of an Interreligious Council of religious leaders in the UN system as a means of building lasting peace. He also emphasized that character education, strengthening the family and stressing human responsibility lend support to the efforts of peacebuilding at the national and international levels.

Dr. Kurt Johnson, leader of a series of seminal workshops under the title "The Message of the Mystical Heart Series: InterSpirituality for the 21st Century," underscored that elevating the human spirit would contribute to the overall welfare of humanity and support the UN goals of bringing people together.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Rubin, psychoanalyst and spiritual lecturer, gave a very comprehensive view of the corruption of the human spirit through selfishness and the need to move people toward living for others as the ultimate solution to the myriad problems that we are facing in these difficult times.

The committee's closing and cake-cutting ceremony featured former Under–Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury, who explained that spirituality should permeate all areas of human life, including politics and the United Nations. He is committed to promoting a Week of Spirituality at the United Nations and to drafting a resolution to the General Assembly in order to have this week officially recognized. In addition to the three pillars of the UN--human rights, social development, and peace and security--Ambassador Chowdhury pointed out that a fourth pillar could be spirituality, values and global concerns.

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