Interfaith Council celebrates human rights at read-in

Connie Walton and the Reverend Jaco ten Hove read aloud from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  - Karen Scarvie photo
Connie Walton and the Reverend Jaco ten Hove read aloud from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
— image credit: Karen Scarvie photo

The microphone rang clear in front of city hall Monday with reminding words of the God-given rights for freedom and equality.

In celebration of Human Rights Day, a gathering formed for the Interfaith Council’s Fifth Annual Community Read-In of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The declaration, which expresses the “inalienable rights of all members of the human family,” has been a published standard since 1948 when the United Nations met to prevent the catastrophes of World War II from ever happening again.

“It’s so meaningful to remind ourselves of the import the Universal Rights have,” said the Reverend Jaco ten Hove of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church.

“We fall short of these values often. It’s important to continue to strive for them,” he said.

The group stood in a quiet semi-circle facing a podium where, one-by-one, each person read one of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration.

“Article 25: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control,” one person read.

“Pause with me to drink in these 30 articles and the power, the meaning, the journey that these articles represent,” said Bill Scarvie after the last article was read.

Scarvie, a member of the Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church and the organizer behind the event for the past five years, began the tradition of the read-in on the Universal Declaration’s 60th anniversary.

After reading David Korten’s “The Great Turning,” Scarvie said he asked himself how we could create a cultural shift that emphasizes better global values.

He answered his own question by putting together a calendar of celebrations that included the anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“I hope that it opens people’s eyes,” said Scarvie. “Maybe it will inspire people to first of all defend their own rights.”

“I hope that one day this square will be completely full, the podium this high,” he added motioning his hand at his ear to show a tall stage. “And we can read the articles in unison.”

In the first years following World War II, the world was divided between West and East but the magnitude of the war’s barbarism left many countries in a state of desperation for something like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to the United Nations, Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, member of the drafting sub-Committee for the Universal Declaration, wrote: “I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality. In the Great Hall … there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.”

Despite the years since its adoption, after the reading, participants fell into conversation over hot cider to discuss how the declaration continues to be a relevant topic today.

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