June 18-23, 2007
The WSCF AP first Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Training for Students was conducted from June 18 to 23, 2007 at the La Verne Mercado Ecumenical Center located at the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Quezon City, Philippines. It was attended by 28 young people from the following countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.
The objectives of the HRD Training program were the following:
The opening address by Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), reminded the participants of the importance of the role that youth and students play in the life of the ecumenical movement and within the local and regional churches and organisations that we all come from. In her address she reminded the participants that despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the desecration of people’s God-given right to be human continues. She faults fundamentalism for the gross violation of human rights in today’s context, where one fragment of society turn it into a way of life for everyone. This fundamentalist philosophy excludes people that are “different” and therefore treated as second-class citizens, belonging to a lesser breed, invisible, insignificant. And if they refuse, the fundamentalist convert them, isolated or exterminated. In conclusion, she emphasize that human rights are not offered to people in a silver platter, like freedom, human rights must be struggled for and won. She also reminded everyone that they were gathering in a place where blood is stained by the sacrifices of countless human rights defenders, many of whom are young people.
At the conclusion of the opening worship, Necta Montes-Rocas (WSCF AP General Secretary) gave an orientation of the overall program and how the two programs HRD and IYSM are interlinked, she emphasized the objectives of the program and encouraged everyone to learn from the HRD as it will be valuable in their human rights advocacy work. The Training program primary focus was to equip students with some basic knowledge on Human Rights, analyse and take part in Human Rights issues from our own context and become Human Rights Defenders with concrete skills in human rights work and advocacy.
To lead the first week of the HRD program was Ruki Fernando from Forum Asia, a regional human rights organization based in Thailand. His sessions gave us a broad and succinct understanding of Human Rights, the mechanisms and tools for human rights work.We also had other resource peoples who gave us an analysis of Human Rights from a gendered perspective, Raijeli Nicole and Marion Pascual from Isis International Manila, Lovella de Castro on Skills in Fact Finding Mission and Documentation and Ruth Cervantes, both from KARAPATAN, on Philippine human rights group and on the Philippines human rights situation respectively.
Other significant topics and subjects covered in the HRD workshop was the bible studies prepared each morning after worship. Each morning we had guest presenters of each of our bible studies:
The bible studies looked at how we can theologically, socially and pastorally engage in human rights issues when looking at biblical text and the plethora of stories covered in biblical times and how this affects us in the 21st century. Theological reflection and contextualising the text that represents a more culturally sound and sensitivity will help work affectively among our own Christian peers, churches, groups and other faith based programs that we are involved in.
Also a significant point of this program was the fellowship and dinner with the Student Christian Movement Senior Friends from the SCM Philippines on the 19th of June Tuesday night, where leaders of the churches, including Bishop Solito Toquero of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines graced and give some inspirational message to the young people. We were able to meet and sit together to hear and reflect upon the lives of friends and supporters who were significant and instrumental in both the local and international level of the WSCF AP federation and SCMs throughout Asia and the Pacific.
At the conclusion of the first week from the 18th to the 23rd in our synthesis came up with two important recommendation to consider and move forward. The first question was raised, how are we going to carry this HRD program and the skills gained and implement this within our own respective Student Christian Movements? First, we will encourage each SCMs to form or strengthen their existing Human Rights Desk to respond to human rights issues and continue with the campaign to bring justice to the victims of the extra-judicial killings. Second, strengthen the network and sharing of information between the 17 national movements or SCMs in the Asia-Pacific region to effectively respond to human rights issues in the region. For example each movement is different and has different ideas about how we are going to engage in Human Rights issues. Therefore to help this become more of a reality and work effectively communications with the WSCF AP HR Committee and other support groups both locally and internationally will help each Student Christian Movements become more proactive and aware of Human Rights abuses cases within their own countries and around the world.
At the conclusion of the first week of this programme we were given an orientation into the exposure trip program, as it was from the following week exposure trip that we were to engage fully into the Human Rights in context with the Philippines.