Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Call to Humanitarianism

The following is a letter to the editor by LCHR President, Kathryn Porter, which appeared in today’s Washington Times.

A Call to Humanitarianism
The news coming out of the world's conflict zones grows increasingly dire. In Sudan, we see a human rights catastrophe spinning out of control; in Iraq, insurgents and militias perpetrate the torture and murder of countless civilians. In North Korea, an entire nation is held captive by state-sponsored oppression. In Afghanistan, corruption at the highest levels has allowed the Taliban to regain power and terrorize the Afghan people who do not comply with their moblike tactics. The list goes on. Atrocities are being committed everywhere we look.

Meanwhile, with midterm elections a few days away, many candidates are focusing their campaigns around negative ads and rallying their bases on wedge issues. Partisan pandering may win elections, but it does not solve the global human rights crisis unfolding around us.

Most Americans have seen images of the atrocities in Darfur broadcast into their living rooms on CNN. Genocide in real time — we can read all about it on Anderson Cooper's 360 Blog. Not as prominently reported are the accounts of human rights abuses against Egypt's Copts and Baha'is, China's Uyghurs, Iraq's Chaldo-Assyrians and other minority groups. The overarching themes of sectarian violence and ethnic and gender discrimination, though, are common knowledge.

Without having seen or experienced these atrocities firsthand, Americans become anesthetized to the ongoing evil in faraway places. Compassion fatigue plagues the U.S. public and policy-makers. Americans need a wake-up call and a reminder that average people can make a real difference in the lives of those whose rights are being trampled by appealing to their elected decision-makers.

Thankfully there are strong leaders in Congress to shake us out of our collective inaction, foremost among them Congressional Human Rights Caucus co-chairmen Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican. Earlier this month, hundreds of advocates from nongovernmental organizations both large and small gathered to recognize Mr. Wolf's outstanding work to end persecution, specifically his commitment to religious freedom ("Re-elect Frank Wolf," Editorial, Oct. 20).

Mr. Wolf had a message for those present: Things are getting worse, not better. In response, the human rights community must collaborate to find a common cause and solve the most urgent problems of our day. We must show the world that the U.S. is serious about ensuring fundamental freedoms and that protecting human rights is our top priority.

The human rights community should pay attention to Mr. Wolf's wise words, heeding his call to build solidarity and speaking with one powerful voice. Now more than ever, leaders of nongovernmental organizations must join forces to promote human rights on Capitol Hill and around the world. The desperate headlines underscore the critical importance of human rights groups working together, presenting a united front at a time when fundamental freedoms have reached an all-time low.

Uttering platitudes in the face of humanitarian crises is not enough; circumstances demand creative solutions with political legs. If we supply the ideas, our human rights champions in Congress and in the field will pave the way for new and meaningful action.

Partisanship is rampant in Washington, but by shifting the dialogue away from the issues that divide us to something everyone can agree upon — protecting the freedoms we hold dear on a global scale — we can harness the vast supply of energy on both sides of the aisle to elevate the human rights agenda.

All Americans are stakeholders in this debate. Who among us will stand up and be counted?

To access the letter online, click here


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