Human Rights Day

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December often brings with it the excitement and stress of the holiday season. This time of year, family, food, shopping, and celebrating fill the few empty spots on my schedule; however, the holidays are also a time when I try to share with those less fortunate. December 10 is Human Rights Day, with this year marking the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Watch this video, which shows the importance of Human Rights Day and the impact we can all have.

Candlelight Walk

One of the best ways to get involved in the human rights advocacy community is to attend local events. I recently went to the Amnesty International’s 25th Annual Candlelight Walk for Human Rights in Oceanside, CA to learn more about what happens when people come together to raise awareness and celebrate human rights.

From the live African music to the dramatic readings by young local actors, the entire event was a means for people to come together to promote human rights. While every aspect of the gathering was powerful, the most impactful part of the night for me was when Nestor Fantini took the stage.

Fantini lived in Argentina in the 1970s during what is now often called the Argentina Dirty War. According to, “Many people, both opponents of the government as well as innocent people, were ‘disappeared’ in the middle of the night. They were taken to secret government detention centers where they were tortured and eventually killed. These people are known as ‘los desaparecidos’ or ‘the disappeared.’” For a time, Fantini was one of “the disappeared.” He was a student when he was arrested, tortured for a week, and taken to a detention camp.

He was held for an entire year in a notorious camp for political prisoners, completely cut off from outside communications. The harassment and the torture came to a head when he was blindfolded, handcuffed, put on his knees, and told to pray because he was about to be executed. Instead, he was transferred to another prison and eventually released.

Fantini’s story is not an unusual one, nor is it one that is no longer relevant. As states:

Amnesty International’s 2009 World Report and other sources show that people are:

  • Tortured or abused in at least 81 countries,
  • Face unfair trials in at least 54 countries, and
  • Restricted in their freedom of expression in at least 77 countries.

While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by examples of atrocities against humanity, it’s also important to remember that, even against remarkable odds, the indomitable spirit of individuals like Nestor Fantini can overcome, educate, and carry a message about the importance of recognizing that all people deserve the right to life and liberty.

Getting Involved, Staying Involved

The first sentence of the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Universal Declaration, n.d.). But what exactly are human rights issues? These are issues that involve the denial of basic rights to an individual. Some of these include:

  • Women’s rights
  • Children’s rights
  • Refugee issues
  • Genocide
  • LGBT issues
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Hunger
  • HIV/AIDS crisis

One of the best ways to ensure that you can stay involved is to become active in working for a specific issue you are most passionate about. This specificity allows you to focus your efforts for a certain cause and stay up-to-date on different news and events related to that issue.

A Season of Giving

December is a busy month, but it can also be a season of giving. What better way to give than to do your best to ensure that all human beings are afforded their basic rights? Amnesty International is a worldwide organization of individuals fighting for human rights. Visit their Ten Ways to Make a Difference page to find out how you can contribute!

To learn more, visit the Human Rights Day homepage.

Written by Samuel Harvey.
Sam writes content for the Office of Student Access and Wellness at Ashford University.

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