Thursday 17Friday 18Saturday 19Sunday 20

Promoting human rights, in particular those of juveniles, as the Salesian way of promoting a culture of life and a change of structures. The Preventive System of Don Bosco has a great social outreach: it wants to collaborate with many other agencies in the transformation of society, working for a change in the criteria and views about life, in the promotion of the culture open to others, in a sober style of life, in a constant attitude of selfless sharing and of a commitment to justice and the dignity of every human being.
Education to human rights, in particular to the rights of juveniles, is the privileged way to implement in various contexts this commitment to prevention, to integrated human development, to the construction of a world that is more fair, more just, more healthy. The language of human rights also allows us to dialogue and to introduce our pedagogy into the different cultures in our world.

(from the basic content of the Rector Major's Strenna for 2008)


young missionaries amidst the young for human development and an active and responsible citizenship of the world"

Carola Carazzone

The cry of violation of human rights

The human rights situation at worldwide level is somewhat gruesome. Every minute, every second great and terrible violations of human dignity are committed with regard to rights and basic freedoms.

No society or nation is immune.

Questions of human rights are not just questions for developing countries. Indeed it is the nations defining themselves as “advanced democracies” which are more often than not adopting a policy of human rights which we might say is ambivalent.

Italy, for example, though, on the one hand leading an important struggle in the United Nations for an international moratorium on the death penalty or playing a key role in negotiations which are key to the approval of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – this latter opened to signatories on 30 March 2007, one of the eight basic UN Conventions concerning human rights - on the other hand is not ready to ratify – nor is any other country from Western Europe – the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, or to guarantee the legal responsibility of businesses concerning human rights or, again, is not ready to offer itself at the national level as an independent authority for the promotion and protection of human rights, defaulting on resolutions in United Nations matters and those of the Council of Europe. Italy is flashing its brake-lights, not just at the European level.

Beyond Italy, we can think, for example, of obstacles that powerful financial lobbies place in the way of effective recognition by the United Nations of the right to a healthy environment or of obstacles which countries declaring themselves to be “consolidated democracies” place in the way of any recognition in binding international legal terms of the right to development, or the right to freedom from hunger and thirst, with consequent duties (juridical duties) in both quantitative and qualitative terms for international cooperation. Or again, one thinks of obstacles to international jurisdiction on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Far too often too many countries adopt fictitious human rights policies that are dicotomous: some rights yes, others no; for certain vulnerable groups yes, for others no; theoretical recognition perhaps, effectively carried out – with consequent restrictions also in terms of national sovereignty – almost never.

It is true that if one looks, diachronically, at the history of human rights, one cannot help but note that progress beginning from 1990 was not even hopeful up to the fall of the Berlin wall: in 1990 only 10% of the world's nations had ratified the then six main International Conventions on human rights. In 2000 that number had grown spectacularly, reaching almost half of all nations, with five of the Conventions ratified by more than 140 countries.

Many countries in the Eastern Bloc, besides, following the fall of the Berlin wall, have put human rights in their national Constitutions, as happened previously in many Afro-Asian countries, once they achieved independence from colonial regimes.

Many countries, in more recent years, have introduced education to human rights in school programmes and created new institutions for promoting human rights and dealing with their violations: Guarantee Authorities, Independent national commissions, Ombudsmen, Civil defenders.

Again, the 90's saw the institution of International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, while in 2000 there was the special court for Sierra Leone, in 2003 the Special Tribunal for Cambodia and, on 1 July 2002, after half a century of campaigning for its institution, the permanent International Criminal Court came into force.

If, we were saying, it is true that one cannot avoid noting of these results, it is the cry – where at least there is a cry and not deafening silence – of massive violations of dignity and the freedom of people that echoes daily from the four corners of the earth.

The cry of the 1 billion 100 million people living on less than a dollar a day; of the 2.8 billion people living on less than 2 dollars a day; of the 1 billion 200 million who have no access to drinkable water and the 2 billion 600 million who have no access to any kind of medicine; the 854 million illiterate adults; the 25 million internally displaced people (forced to flee within their own countries), the one in three women in the world who have suffered violence.

“The international community must identify new ways and means for removing current obstacles and face the challenges to full realisation of all human rights, and eliminate the continuing violation of existing human rights which still goes on in the world”.

This is the human rights challenge: how to guarantee the effective practice of rights abstractly proclaimed? What to do to eliminate the constant violation of human rights which still exists in the world? What to do to prevent this violation? What changes in thinking and action to propose to put an end to today's failures?

As Salesians, the challenge for us is especially focused on prevention, on breaking the vicious circle which perpetuates the constant violation of the rights and dignity of people, on promoting a culture suffused with human rights, able to escape from the offices of the jurists and philosophers of rights, and become instead the heritage of human beings.

The challenge is to educate young people to participation and individual and social commitment to human development, to become active as responsible citizens of the world.

The Salesian charism for promotion and protection of human rights

For 150 years the Salesians have been working in 130 nations for the promotion and protection of those rights which jurists today define as the rights of children and adolescents, especially, and they do this on the basis of the Salesian preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.

The recent international recognition of children and adolescents as subjects of rights has undoubtedly constituted one of the fundamental stages in the movement for the promotion and protection of human rights and basic liberties.

The adoption of the New York Convention (on the rights of children) on the part of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 20 November 1989 represents the point of arrival after 70 years of claims from below, and the point of departure for promotion and protection of children and adolescents on the basis of a new vision and perspective with many elements in common with the Salesian concept of the young person.

The New York Convention, currently ratified by 192 Nations, marks, at least normatively, the passing from a view of the vulnerable, “needy” child as an object of protection or even object of repression, to the view of the vulnerable child as a subject, with full title to his or her own rights, and an agent of human development.

The poor illiterate child, with disabilities, abandoned, the child who infringes the penal law or who lives on the street can no longer be considered – in the “best” of hypothesis – as a victim of society and – in the “worst” of hypotheses – as a threat to society to be separated from it and institutionalised.

With the New York Convention, the juridical frame of reference for practically all the nations of the world has been overturned, the perspective, at least theoretically has been reversed: from policies of emergency based on needs to policies based on rights, from a distribution of goods and services directed from on high to passive beneficiaries of assistance down below, to the long term construction of individual and social competencies (the capabilities drawn up by Amartya Sen). The perspective has altered to coming from below to those on high.

It is great to make a study of the directions applied by the New York Convention and international law on human rights, knowing Don Bosco.

Certainly, Don Bosco did not know how to speak of human rights of children and adolescents (not even the juridical category existed then!), but Don Bosco was a precursor of so many elements of the view of children and adolescents that today are defined on the basis of human rights.

Don Bosco taught us about the wholistic nature of the person, and an approach based on human rights demands an application of the principle of indivisibility and interdependence of ALL the fundamental rights of the person – civil, cultural, economic, political and social.

Don Bosco teaches us about a wholistic education to honest citizenship, and an approach based on human rights demands the application of the principle of common, differentiated responsibility for the promotion and protection of all human rights for all people.

Don Bosco teaches us about one on one, and an approach based on human rights demands the application case by case of the principle of the superior interests of the minor.

Don Bosco teaches us that the child is at the centre as an active and partcipative being and about meaningful participation by the minor.

Don Bosco teaches us “it is enough that you are young for me to love you”, and the approach based on human rights demands the permanent positve application of the principle of non-discrimination across all kinds of people.

So many Salesians are daily involved in the rights of children and adolescents, to give them dignity and voice, to break the vicious circle of poverty, violations of human rights, underdevelopment. Maybe without ever having read the New York Convention or studied Amartya Sen, simply loving and educating in the manner of Don Bosco.

But the educational and social challenge launched by the Rector Major today, with the Strenna for 2008, is wider still and regards all Salesian works: schools, oratories, parishes, not only the works dealing with the marginalised.

The challenge launched by the Rector Major

Through the Strenna for 2008 the Rector Major throws out a challenge to the Salesian Family, an impasssioned challenge, starting from the cry of massive, serious violations of human rights, especially of children and adolescents: “promoting human rights as the Salesian way of promoting a culture of life and changing of structures”.

It is a challenge to the Salesian, educative, pedagogical charism itself.
Every year Salesians, present in 150 nations, educate millions of youngsters and have a unique representation worldwide for having a voice at world level in promoting human rights, in educating to an active, responsible citizenship of the world, in building “a more just, equal, sound and healthy world”.

Too often educatioin today is a market education, at the service of maintining the status quo which continues, in the era of globalisation, to privatise riches ever more in a few hands, a few people, a few groups, a few countries and, at the same time, socialise poverty.

“The drama of modern day humanity” – the Rector Major teaches us - “is the rupture between education and society, the divide between school and citizenship”.

Salesian education instead must be “an education to values, a promoter and creator of responsible citizenship”.

The Rector Major speaks to us of humanising education and the ministry of involement, claiming that the Salesian educational proposal for a culture of justice, solidarity, change of structures, while arising from the preferential option to stay amongst the poorest, concerns all Salesian works and not those just dealing with marginalisation.

What does it mean today for Salesians to form the honest citizen?

What does it mean today to educate to an active repsonsible citizenship of the world, which takes to heart the lot of humanity and society which is already globalised.

This is the perspective of education TO and FOR human rights as ongoing education, able to move the young person and then the adult to individual and social involvement, to common, differentiated responbsibility for human development, and it takes on an undeniable relevance for Salesians.

The need for a preventive approach to human rights

The question of education to human rights is a more or less recent one.

For a long time the perspective of the movement for human rights was too often exclusively one of a “punitive” nature: denouncing violations once they have been committed.

Now, denouncing violations of human rights is certainly a basic item available to NGOs, associations, individuals, even more so now with the information era upon us, new technologies like blog, chat, forum on line, but also with a computer and internet access, as part of international campaigns, movements, appeals on behalf of human rights.

These denunciations, sometimes, can save the life of a victim.

Denunciation can also be useful in sensitising new people, common people who normally are not interested in ideas about human rights – I am thinking of the great campaigns against the use of child soldiers, or the death penalty, where the role of public opinion has been fundamental.

Denunciation is a vital tool not only ex post for protecting rightts already violated, for acting justly, but also ex ante for promoting human rights, sensitising to prevention of violations.

The problem however is that the exclusivity of the perspective of denouncing, which has characterised much of the activity up till now with regard to human rights, can end up being reductive.

In fact it is necessary to spread a culture of human rights, to educate to human rights, persuade, beyond simply prohibiting; prevent rather than simply cure.

Up till now ridiculously few resources have been invested in prevention, education to human rights, both in school and out of school.

Think that in Italy, human rights and their systems of promotion and protection are not obligatory material in teaching not even for Faculties of Jurisprudence.

It is obvious that the individual lecturer, if especially sensitive to the theme, could insert it in teaching about consitutional law, international law, philosophy of law or the hisotry of jurisprudence but, certainly, this possible discretionary teaching is hardly enough.

Awareness is, as we have seen, the most effective form of control, inasmuch as it allows the employment of international, regional, national juridical bodies available to the Geneva High Commission, presentation of the case to the Committee for elmination of discrimination of women, drawing up an alternative report etc., as well as the control of public groups and the adjustment of their policies for bringing about human rights.

Non-government organisations, too, have only recently begun to invest in resources for education to human rights.

Next year we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the General Assembly of the United Nations approval of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and this gap has to be filled, otherwise these solemn proclamations can remain nothing but ideals, and at the end of it all, nothing except paper.

It is from this educational point of view that the Salesian charism can truly offer a basic contribution in spreading the culture of the dignity of life and freedom, committed, responsible citizenship and prevention.

Education in human rights for an active, responsible citizenship of the world

International recognition of the right and duty of education to human rights

The international law of human rights has been slow to recognise education to human rights as the main end and means of human development and the prime and undeniable tool of prevention.

Article 26 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “Education must be directed to the full development of the human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights eand basic freedoms. It should promote understanding, tolerance, friendship between nations, racial and religious groups, and must favour the work of the United Nations in keeping peace”.

But for a long time education has been considered a question of access, a question of how much instruction, not a question in itself of human rights.

With the New York Convention in 1989 and then the World Convention of Vienna in1993 the right and duty of education to human rights found a solid and effective definition, including in planning and responsibility terms.

Art. 29 of the New York Convention, entitled “The aims of education” reads: “States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.

This article which, at least juridically, binds 192 States, adds to the right to education (recognised in article 28) a qualitative dimension, of education to values, of education to and for human rights.
The right to education is not, as is often maintained, just a question of access to instruction (art. 28), but also one of content.

Education also goes well beyond formal instruction to include the vast range of experiences of life and processes of learning which allow the child, individually or collectively, to develop his or her own personality, abilities and to live a worth, complete and satisfying life in society. From this new perspective therefore the duty of realisation linked to the right to education to human rights involves many different agents in all kinds of educational settings.

During the Conference of Vienna then, the international community recognised the fundamental importance of education to human rights with a view to promoting a universal culture of human rights and, in particular, with a view to preventing violations.

In December 1994, announcing ten years of UN activity for Education to Human Rights (1995-2004), the General Assembly defined education to human rights as: “an ongoing process by which people, at any level of development and at every stratum of society, learn about respect and the dignity of others as well as the means and methods of guaranteeing such respect in every society”.

In December 2005, the UN launched the World Programme for education to human rights, the first phase of which, in its action plan (2005-2008) saw the inclusion of human rights in primary and secondary school curricula.

What kind of education to human rights

An education that did not go beyond describing injustice in the world and violation of human rights, would inevitably be complicit in this injustice.

Education in human rights cannot limit itself to making human rights known, but should be an education not only TO but also FOR human rights, and should lead to commitment, solidarity, action.

Education to promotion of human rights has the objective of contributing a broad culture, basically, of human rights which is capable of dialoguing, persuading and, finally, preventing violations of these very rights, rather than punishing and repressing.

Education to human rights, in a non-static and evolving vision, in fact, is not and cannot be, about revealing an immutable and static truth, but is a dialogue, a facing up to, a shifting from general and abstract theory to its carrying out in the local context and situation.
Seen this way, education to human rights must of necessity be multidimensional and seen as an wholistic and ongoing education to active and responsible citizenship, one capable of joining the descriptive to the prescriptive, the knowing to the being, and integrating the passing on of knowledge with the formation of personality.
The result of knowing about peace, human rights is citizenship which is configurable in many ways like a tree whose trunk is the juridical understanding of the person, one's primary citizenship-identity, the roots are fundamental human rights, while the branches are derived citizenship-identity (Italian, European, gender, role etc).

From this perspective, education to human rights is education to action, gesture, taking a position, taking on board, critical analysis, thinking, being informed, considering information received from newspapers, the media, in their correct proportion. It is an education that should be ongoing and daily.

On these basics, education to and for human rights should comprise at least three dimensions:
cognitive dimension (knowing, thinking critically, conceptualising, judging),
affective dimension (trying out, having experience, empathy)
volitional, active behaviour (choices and actions, putting certain behaviours into action).

Why education to and for human rights and not 'teaching'

If by teaching we mean a traditional kind of didactic activity where one person only, the teacher, has something to teach, while the rest (students) just have to listen and learn, then human rights are not taught: one educates to human rights.

Human rights are not taught 'from above' or imposed.

One educates to human rights (from the Latin e -ducere), human rights are transmitted and grasped, if by these words we consider that there is space for mutual comparisons, dialogue and personal rewrking of things.

Human rights still seem to be a matter for people who sporadically shine (or dishonourably so) in the media, to then disappear, locked up in the offices and studies of philosophers of law, and jurists.
Education to human rights has to get out of the restricted environment which is the competence of jurists and lawyers without any interdisciplinary aspirations of it becoming the heritage of all, the heritage of anyone who feels ready to open and maintain an intercultural dialogue which draws its basis from human rights. Human rights have to become the heritage of everyone, an occasion for dialogue and debate for whomsoever, be they learned or not.

Everyone can teach human rights and everyone can learn human rights.

Education to human rights is an educatioin to all levels in every social context. Everyone, children, older youth, adults, can be educated to the ethical value of rights and their practical effect on social existence.

Everyone, even a child (think for example of so-called peer to peer education, education amongst equals) can become, in turn, an educator and promoter of human rights.

Education to human rights in the past (and sometimes today) was understood as an education in civics which takes place in school.

This is an extremely limited and limiting perspective for at least four reasons:
too inwardly referring in terms of one's own context,
often reduced to a merely cognitive, theoretical, normative teaching of material considered as the domain of juridical studies or philosophy, where human rights teaching is still anchored to norms and their content,
restricted to adults as the only ones able to reach children, adolescents,
limited to schooling.

Today much research has confirmed the limits of this traditional approach (civic learning) based exclusively on knowing about political insitutions and their history, and proposes a much broader approach, socio-civic learning which is a stimulus to practical experience, acceptance of responsibility and participation, an approach that has many elements in common with the Salesian style of education.

The interdisciplinary and wholistic nature of education to human rights

Human rights, in fact, are not only matter for juridical and philosophical consideration, but are interdisciplinary material. They can be taught and discussed in school in the context of many subjects: history, geography, foreign languages, literature, biology, physics, music, economics.

Education to human rights at the school level, then, though fundamental, does not cover, nor can it ever cover, the multiplicty of possible ways for spreading a culture of human rights. NGOs, associations, oratories, social centres, centres where young people gather, day centres can play a key role in education to human rights and responsible citizenship.

For the school, however, the problem continues to be where to put education to human rights in the curriculum. Teaching programmes are always overburdened with content and all the new areas of knowledge, so they remain ont he waiting list. Human rights should be an integral part of formation and updating of teachers, so the teachers themselves can be able to redevleop and pass on human rights in a multidisciplinary approach as a cross-curriculum leit motive (mainstreaming) in different subjects. But that is still in the future somewhat and human rights continue to be specialist material, rather than something cross-curriculum, including at university level.

The best solution would be a truly wholistic education to human rights: an education that goes alongside formal elements, as well as non-formal and informal elements, an wholistic education involving both in-school and outside of school settings.

Wholistic education to human rights overcomes the merely juridical and cognitive aspect, and favours passing from understanding, to interiorising, to commitment and taking on responsibility.
One could say in fact that education to citizenship, democracy, peace, through human rights involves every educational setting and would be articulated in three successive phases:
the first is an understanding of one's own rights, duties and values;
the second is personal reflection, interiorising those values and rights;
the third is learning to put them into practice and learning to defend one's rights and those of others.

Ongoing education for a widespread culture of human rights

Human rights, we said, are not taught or imposed, but one educates to human rights through dialogue and mutual discussion.

Human rights are not a fixed and immutable catalogue of rights listed as norms, but, as Antonio Papisca puts it, a political project: “the tough core of a broader understanding of an interdisciplinary calling. Knowing that, beginning from the absolute value of human dignity, leads to reconstructing what we know and harmonising different cultures with respect to their originality. A knowing that brings peace, a knowing about peace, useful, especially in this difficult phase of the world's history, for transforming into intercultural dialogue those many conflicts that come with the processes of multiculturalisation”.

Education to human rights, then, is education to the values which go with those rights and to rights understood as effective channels of the principles of the universal human ethic in politics.

It is there that we educate to commitment to causes and to the questions that arise day after day in our lives at local or international level.

To speak then of ongoing education and a culture of human rights means passing from rights to ethics, values, norms, attiudes, the directions which inspire the behaviour of people seen either individually or collectively and leaving aside the traditional concept of education to rights as cognitive or theoretical teaching of what is permitted by law.

It is important in fact to stress the systematic element tied in with the concept of culture. We are not dealing with sporadic interventions, but coherent ethical interdependent principles, which have to bring about appropriate understandings, abilities, attitudesi, not sterile claims but actions.

Attention however. The culture of human rights is not a static, definite reality, but a process, continually evolving, and in this respect the contents of human rights function as a lever and at the same time as an objective. Besides, today educating means teaching a person to educate him or herself constantly, in a fluid and continually evolving society. This is why we find the need for ongoing education.

It is essential, from this point of view, to throw light on the problem elements, the shadows, the critical situations: human rights are neither The Truth, nor a panacea.

Today in fact there is much said about “human rights”: the term is used by some States to claim legitimacy for military intervention or an 'ethical' war against terrorism, or by citizens of rich nations to invole the protection of the human rights of the consumer, or by countries of the European Union to deny help to poor countries that violate rights, or by autocratic heads of government to maintain that human rights are a new justification for colonialism by the West and to demand non-interference in internal affairs, or by civil society to go into bat for the rights of those without a voice.

The use and abuse then of the term, “human rights”, has emerged from the restricted debate of jurists and philosophers to arouse interest in a broad public, but because of it a certain amount of confusion still reigns. Human rights are not a list, a decalogue of fixed, predetermined static rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, despite its revolutionary importance in recognising the human person as the subject of international law, captures rights at that particular historical moment, and let us not forget in fact that in 1948 in the USA a regime of racial segregation was in force that would still last another twenty years, and that in many States, including European ones, women had no right to vote, and many peoples were still under colonial rule.

What kind of vision for human rights: two essential points of view

Indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social

Rights are inherent to the human being who possesses them from birth, as if they were written into one's DNA: the State does not grant them, does not enlarge on them, but limits itself to recongising them.

Civil, cultural, economic, poitical and social rights are all equally essential for the dignity and freedom of each human being.

For fifty years Socialist countries maintained that it was necessary to ignore civil and political rights in order to foster economic and social rights, while other nations of the Western Bloc said the opposite, that it was necessary to suppress economic and social rights in order to guarantee civil and political rights.

Today it is no longer possible to justify the old dichotomy of the cold war and the violation of civil and political rights in order to promote social and economic rights or vice versa, inasmuch as one can only be effectively enjoyed if the other is at the same time.

Human rights in fact are indivisible because at their core is the human being, with his inviolable right to live a life of dignity in every dimension: civil, cultural, economic, political and social.

Besides, human rights are interdependent, in the sense that civil and political rights without economic and social rights are empty, and vice versa.

Between the realisation of civil and political rights and the realisation of economic and social rights there is not a relationship of subordination, but one of vital reciprocity. They nurture each other triggering a virtuous circle and they cancel one another out if they are put into a vicious circle.

Indivisibilty and interdependence of all human rights are still just words, way off from real facts, abstract concepts with respect to the reality today of human rights. Human rights for the ius positum in practice mean only civil and political rights.

At worldwide level, even in the United Nations, we see even more, from both sides, a mutilated view of human rights, the indivisibility and wholeness of the person. We see the divide between nations with a high level of economic development who want to keep the status quo and poor nations who forcefully claim their right to development and certain economic social and cultural rights.

One set of public opinion (or, seen fromn another perspective, an electorate) which in Europe and North America claims to be very sensitive to human rights, is in reality only so for certain civil and political rights.

It is easy to point to nations where women cannot report sexual violence, and then pretend that environmental degradation doesn't concern us or that the dramatic poverty of most people in the world doesn't exist or doesn't depend on the way we go about production or on our lifestyle. And it is also easy to proclaim people as champions of human rights who do not recognise immigrants or asylum seekers, or those who seek development cooperation.

A differentiated common responsibility

Use of the language of human rights presents noteable benefits, but it can also accompany facile exploitation.

There are many benefits accruing from the use of the language of human rights as an instrument of social change so that every person in every corner of the world can enjoy a life of freedom and dignity. In our new globalised context human rights become a tool which can go beyond narrow national confines to pose limits and common objectives, create alliances and strategies and mobilise resources, both human and economic.

But, as we were saying, the language of rights becomes risky or even false and misleading if not seen as part of rights and responsibilities.

If, regarding our own rights, we are ready to draft a long list and call them rights, or worse still human rights, mere interests, while, with regard to others' rights, we are not even ready to recognise the responsibilities and duties which correspond to the most basic and vital needs, well then, probably, it would be better to avoid speaking about human rights.

The perspective of human rights is in fact by its very nature inclusive: all human rights for all human beings. Womens' rights, minority groups' rights, rights of the disabled are not 'special' rights.
Every human being has a right to enjoy all basic rights and the State, the community, other individuals have the duty to act to guarantee the individual, taking account of his or her special circumstances and differences, the best possible enjoyment of those rights.

It is inescapable and urgent to overcome the exclusivity of the responsibility of States and identify the responsibilities of every agent: instituional, economic and social which is able to influence the effective realisation of human rights. In our new globalised context the responsibility of the State today is necessary but no longer sufficient.

The exclusivity of the Individual-State perspective, which we have inherited from the European and North American Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries, and which still marks today's mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights, is insufficient.

Today we need a system of responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights which is much more differentiated and which involves, as well as States, global organisations and international financial institutions (World Commerce Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund), businesses, NGO's, media, schools, communities, families, individualsi: everyone able to have a huge impact on the effective enjoyment of human rights.

Young missionaries among the young

We were saying that the language of human rights is a secular language that we have in common, with which we can talk to governments, politicians, the media.

But how do we reach the young? How do we reach their hearts? How can we move them to respect, to interiorise, to be committed to human rights? This is the challenge that touches us Salesians at close hand.

The challenge is to educate the young to participatione and to individual and social commitment to human development, to make them individually active, responsible citizens of the world.

Salesians have, as perhaps few other education agencies have, the practical pedagogical means of reaching the minds and hearts of the young, the ability to alternate theoretical understanding with practical experience, through multidimensional techniques: theatre, music, sport, role play, artistic competitions, film discussions, participation, volunteer work.

Today the Salesians also have at their dispostion the new technologies, which involve the young so much with possibilities of offering online forums, blogs, chat on human rights themes.

Only by reaching the young with education to and for human rights as also education to responsible citizenship which can overcome the narrow concept of statistical citizenship and/or citizenship of a nation, for a planetary citizenship, will we have a more just, equal and sound world.

This is the cause the Salesian Family must give its enormously significant contribution to.

Today's Video

Today's Photos