Global School October 2017: Human Rights, Reconciliation & Faith
Do you feel overwhelmed by all the hurt in the world? It can seem impossible to take meaningful action when each new day brings more heartbreaking headlines. Although it may be easy to forget, the choices we make can have a positive impact. Last week, faith leaders from the United States and El Salvador rejected hopelessness. They came together in San Salvador to learn how to act for justice in their communities and around the world at Cristosal’s latest Human Rights, Reconciliation, and Faith seminar.
The first day of the seminar was dedicated to faith and human rights. Participants visited several sites significant to the life, ministry, and assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero was a profound voice for human rights in El Salvador before his death in 1980. Álvaro Durán, from San Salvador, shared that Romero’s example gives him the courage to speak the truth in his work with LGBT people of faith, no matter what the consequences may be.
On day two, participants looked at historic impunity. They studied times when perpetrators of large-scale human rights violations were exempt from legal consequences. North American participants reflected on the period of Reconstruction after the civil war in the United States, and compared it with the Salvadoran experience after their civil war in the 1980s. As Susan Copley from New York said, “We unmasked truths about our own pasts. If we’re ever going to go forward, bring healing, and make reconciliation real, we have to look honestly at what has passed.”
The next day was dedicated to learning about present-day victims of violence and forced displacement. Participants saw what it looks like to apply human rights principles in response to human rights violations. “The most important thing for me to see today was Cristosal’s presence…working in a very difficult situation with some very real solutions,” said Larry Roadman, from New York.
Later in the week, participants studied themes of reconciliation from the perspective of those who have committed crimes. The group visited a reinsertion center working to reintegrate victimizers into society, and a church ministering to ex-gang members. These visits were complemented by workshops led by Cristosal staff about working with victims. The conversations that came out of these interactions helped humanize both victims and victimizers, and gave concrete context to the week’s learning.
At the end of the week, participants discussed the impact the seminar had on them. Anne Thatcher, from Pennsylvania, hopes to use her background in training to share new tools for applying the human rights approach to conflicts in her community. Debra Green, also from Pennsylvania, plans to integrate human rights principles into her work with vulnerable students. Carla Roland, from New York, said, “I’ll be back, and probably sooner than I think.”
FIND YOUR 2018 SEMINAR NOW!
Share knowledge and challenge assumptions about human rights and community engagement; violence, security, and peacebuilding; or migration and forced displacement. Seminars are offered at introductory and intermediate levels, and some are designed for specific groups, such as legal professionals, faith leaders, and researchers. Visit www.cristosal.org/global-school or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.