The Cause

Project Overview

A workshop encouraging churchgoers to use their faith and biblical knowledge to better understand human rights.

Identifying the Problem

An active Christian and avid human rights activist, Argemira was troubled by some of her fellow churchgoers’ discussions about social and political issues, which revealed a lack of key information about what was really going on outside the four walls of the church. She witnessed her church fail time and again to meet the needs of the immediate and international community through philanthropic events or even simple outreach events. She also noticed that some of her college friends, or other friends who did not attend church, sometimes made comments that implied that churchgoers, or Christians in general, had hurtful and negative views regarding certain social issues. 

During her Humanity in Action Fellowship, Argemira was inspired by various approaches to understanding difficult and controversial issues, and to explaining one’s position on those issues. She became more aware of how her tone, phrasing and use of expressions could allow a conversation to be more open and constructive, and remain inoffensive. It was very important to Argemira that the members of her church, and other Christians who shared her view, affected change in their communities by using their faith as a tool to empower people to be active citizens and fight injustice. She was certain that with a deeper level of awareness about human rights and the simple lifestyle changes that can help enforce them, churchgoers could bolster their good intentions with meaningful, effective action inside and outside of the church. She wanted to create an opportunity for churchgoing youth to engage in open dialogue while learning how to pick apart ideas and not people.

Creating A Solution

Argemira decided to launch a day-long workshop for the youth community at her home church’s sister church in Arrecifes, Argentina. She spent about a month creating the outline for the program, and compiling materials to distribute. She decided on three different workshop activities, all of which would be supplemented by group discussions. 

The first activity consisted of watching and discussing Free2Choose videos, an interactive exhibition and educational program created by the Anne Frank Foundation. The videos highlight scenarios in which fundamental rights compete with one another, and then ask questions of the viewers. The answers not only reveal how society views rights that come into conflict with one another, but encourages viewers to evaluate their arguments in support of, or in opposition to, a certain statement. Argemira contacted the Anne Frank House of Buenos Aires and requested to use their Free2Choose videos, which the organization gladly provided free of charge. These videos were especially helpful for Argemira’s workshop because they were tailored to Argentine issues. The participants related tremendously to the videos and even gave their own real world examples, many of which were being shared with one another for the first time. 

The second workshop activity involved reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and discussing the parallels between those articulated rights and the rights identified in the Bible. Argemira led the workshop participants in identifying Bible verses that supported various articles of the Universal Declaration. As they read through the Universal Declaration, participants shared stories of instances in which their own human rights were violated. They then discussed ways in which they could bring these violations to the attention of the authorities in the future. 

In the final activity, Argemira presented numerous scenarios in which participants could be confronted with being respectful of human rights in action. The group discussed these scenarios and how they would react in them, especially given what they had learned during the workshop. 

Participants left Argemira’s workshop with a much better understanding of human rights, as well as an increased capability of understanding and explaining difficult issues. The participants were grateful for the safe space that the workshop provided, which allowed them to discuss the controversial issues in their community. Sharing their own experiences with human rights violations forged a new bond among the participants, which Argemira was hopeful would lead to them taking more action together as a community. 

Following the workshop, one of the participants requested that Argemira send her a copy of the Universal Declaration, because “it is important for the youth to know.” Argemira was thrilled with this request, and even more encouraged by the participant’s implication that she would take the time to educate others in the community about the Universal Declaration and the fundamental human rights it identifies. Argemira has plans to carry out similar workshops in the future, including with the youth who attend her home church.

Lessons Learned

One of the most difficult aspects of designing this project was understanding which issues were relevant to the youth in the Arrecifes community. Argemira visited the community twice and spoke to her host family about the most relevant issues in the community. She also spent one-on-one time with church members in order to ascertain which topics would be a good focus for the workshop. Argemira finally determined that the workshop should focus on issues related to violence, bullying and the overall lack of knowledge about human rights.

Funding

The only expenses associated with this project were Argemira’s travel costs, totaling $20. The rest of the project was free, and no money was raised.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2013

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