Human Rights Education in Theory and Practice

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  • Do people have a human right to flee to another country?
  • Do people have a human right to enter into another country?
  • What human rights are affected during flight?

These are just a sample of the questions that Dr. Corinne Lewis, an international human rights lawyer who has been working as an expert for the Council of Europe and UNHCR, discussed with the religious studies students. Her visit last Friday was part of a series of lessons offered to 9th graders on human rights.

Previously students had read about the history of human rights and discussed chart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They had also been introduced to the challenges posed by the implementation of these rights and had analyzed the complex relationship between religion and human rights. This lesson was providing a more practical application: the answers to the initial questions were analyzed in the context of the Syrian Conflict.

Dr. Lewis challenged the students to use their knowledge to find out who is violating human rights and the kinds of human rights that are being violeted. The conclusion that came out of this part of the discussion was this: all the parties are violating some rights. This is why solving the Syrian conflict is so difficult.

The class discussion “discovered” points that can be easily connected to the wider discussion on political refugees in Europe. The challenging relationship between the right to seek asylum and the interests of the countries involved in the request was also discussed. The myth that Europe would receive the majority of Syrian refugees was dismantled: surrounding countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have received more than 4 million Syrian refugees whereas the European Union members have received approximately 100,000.

 Dr. Lewis shared her knowledge on human rights not only with the students but also with faculty members. At lunch-time she presented her views on why it is important to include in the middle and high school curriculum topics on human rights. This was an important and inspiring presentation on human rights education.

By Milla Purosalo-Vandenbroucke, 9th grade student