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Religious Youth Call for Respect for Human Rights

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In the 60 years since its signing, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been honored more in word than in action. Perhaps young people can be catalysts for change and bring about peace in ways that older people cannot.

With this hope, UPF invited young leaders from various faiths to consider how the wisdom of their faiths can help promote human rights and dignity. Forums took place on September 2 the Palais des Nations in Geneva, on November 22 in London, and on December 2 at the UN headquarters in New York. Some common themes emerged from this diverse group of youth:

Religious basis for respect for human rights

Buddhism: “Buddhism welcomes a diversity of beliefs as something that enriches humanity … we believe that all religions that have peace as their central value teach people ways to behave more humanely and balance material and spiritual progress.” – Esther Garibay

Christianity: “Religion should be a source of respect and openness to welcome the other person in his or her deepest identity, which is as a worthy, free, and responsible human being.” - Emmanuel Nachef

Hinduism: “If I asked any of the religious leaders what the basis of their respected religions is, they will all say truth, duty, peace, love, and nonviolence.” – Niraj Pabari

Jainism: “By understanding the divinity that lies within each soul, the only way for a Jain to live is by respecting each and every human.” – Krupa Shah

Judaism: “Jewish tradition teaches us that all humanity is created in the same image and that to destroy a human life is a desecration of all that we hold to be sacrosanct.” – Adam Branson

Difference between beliefs and practice

Buddhism: “So-called Buddhists do not always follow the Buddha’s teachings of peace. The bitter ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and the experience of military dictatorship in Burma are violations of human rights by self-titled Buddhists.”

Christianity: “The religious dimension is often an aggravating factor in conflicts.”

Islam: “In the Lebanon war of 2006, Jewish and Muslim adherents were violating the rights of individuals to live peaceful lives. How can people who believe in one God, but have different means of expressing their beliefs, do this?”

Youth as agents of change

Hinduism: “Why is it that youths from different faiths, cultures, and religions can sit down together and look for solutions for peace, while many of our elders cannot sit down and find peace?”

Islam: “It is our responsibility, especially the young people of today, to make this change. The longer we fool ourselves into believing that someone else will tackle this problem, the worse the situation will get.”

Need for action, not just words

Christianity: “This is our desire: a better and more just world. The road is long, but every road begins with one first step.”

Rama Engle, a student at The New Seminary in New York, said, “We have talked too much and our words lack intent. Now is the time when action has more power than the word. It is time to act.”

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