Religion and human rights: an insoluble conflict?

GCI has recently started a new collaboration with the youth group of the Full Gospel Church, Fiango.

The first meeting was held the last Wednesday, 8th March 2013. It took origin from the need felt by the youth group to tackle controversial issues concerning human rights and religion. Often human rights in Cameroon are considered evil by religious communities, because they are seen as being in contrast with fundamental religious dogmas. A common belief in some denominations in Cameroon is that any Christian is bounded by what the bible provides – considering all the rest forbidden, irrespective of what the rest is. It doesn’t matter if a new trend is established, if it was not provided within the holy scriptures, it means it was meant to be forbidden. This attitude is reflected in any aspect of their lives. Therefore, human rights is seen as an enemy. One of the most common examples is the condemnation of homosexuality, which runs against the freedom of sexual orientation. GCI’s staff will start a series of meetings for discussing such issues and teaching basic notions about human rights. The future workshops aim to approach such issues in a critical way, providing the chance to listen to different voices and make up our own ideas in a peaceful and well-informed environment. Sometimes religion seems in conflict with human rights and sometimes it is possible to find an adaptive reading which allows religion to fit in with the new situation of a changing world. This is possible only by approaching our personal beliefs critically.

The first meeting aimed to test the knowledge on human rights of the participants in order to better prepare the future workshops and to give a brief introduction on these concepts. The seminar was divided into 3 parts. During the first part, the movie “pray the devil back to hell” was projected to show what great changes can brought by the union between religion and human rights. In fact, this film documents a peace movement called Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and testifies the cohesion between Christian and Muslim women, who, for the first time, join their strength together to pray for peace and to organize nonviolent protests. Their movement led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president in an African country. The second part was  a quiz that tested the awareness of the audience by asking them to identify different human rights. The third and final part was a lecture giving examples of several human rights provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Future workshops will be held on more specific issues affecting young people in their every-day lives.