The 2013 International Human Rights Conference, which was held from Sept. 25-26, had a variety of speakers for specific sessions. Topics were held in honor to promote the importance of all aspects of human rights. Planned session topics included: immigration reform and the refugee experience, children’s rights, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, fair trade, human rights during disasters and emergency management, hunger, homelessness, health and disability rights.
The entire conference was an opportunity for faculty and students to engage with noted experts and leaders to discuss topics of human rights in the community, the nation and the world. University faculty members hosted each session, and the conference was organized around two tracks: The Lived Experience and The Law and Policy.
According to the UN Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”
“Throughout the course of human history and throughout our world today, and in this country, the essential humanity of our community has been denied,” said Dr. Kirsten Bookmiller, Director of the Office of Global Education and Partnerships, during the conference last Thursday.
“History and our daily life today is replete with oppression and denial of protections against those who belong to a certain race, an ethnic group, a faith group, a political party, women, children, those with disabilities, if you are poor, if you love someone of the same gender, if you are an immigrant, if you struggle with mental illness,” stated Bookmiller. “In all of these instances, and regrettably more in the 21st century of our advances, of which I believe there are many, we have been regarded as less than human.”
Featured guest speakers included: Keynote Speaker, Sheryl WuDunn, Business Executive, entrepreneur and Best-Selling Author; Joan Blades, Co-Founder of MomsRising.org and MoveOn.org; Michelle Angela Ortiz, an independent artist; Thomas K. Gilhool, attorney; James Conroy and Jean M. Searle, of Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance.
Participating by Skype was Dr. Chanfu Chang from the Department of Communication & Theatre; Joe Arthur of Central Pa.’s Food Bank; Linda Gord, of CRNP, Southeast Health Services; Robert Thomas of Tabor Community Services; Kay Moshier McDivitt from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Liz Bradbury, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Diversity Network; Rep. Brian Simms, Pa. 182nd Profit, Roaring Brook Market & Cafe; Madeline Kreider-Carlson, Fair Trade Federation, and Dr. Carrie Smith.
Dr. Nivedita Bagchi, Millersville University; Audrey Lopez Valdivia, Church World Service; and closing speakers Rosemarie Vesci, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Madeleine Bair, curator of the Human Rights Channel at WITNESS.org.
Also included in the conference was the Human Rights Expo, which held 42 different organizations in the SMC MPR. Some areas of assistance were comprised of: court appointed special advocates, education, women’s issues, anti-trafficking, free music lessons for children, family services, poverty & hunger, Healthy Living Magazine, refugee services, water safety, fair trade goods, disability services, free trade crafts, community funding & volunteers, aging and disability resources, HR initiatives, LGBTQIA services, community resource, financial services, homelessness & community services, children, and many more.