To commemorate United Nations Human Rights Day, December 10th, the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Ajax, Ontario organized a public meeting titled “Pulling Down the Pillars of Oppression”.
Susanne E. Tamás, Director of Governmental Relations for the Baha’i Community of Canada, gave the keynote address following greetings from local dignitaries, a musical presentation by Saba Hajizadeh, and a brief overview of the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Anisa Hajizadeh, the chair for the meeting.
Ms. Tamás spoke about the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “It is the one thing that all humanity universally owns and in which we all have an inherent stake… Imagine a world without this document and without recourse to address the violations that occur. Laws will protect us to some degree but another dimension must be added - we need moral conviction as well as a legal regime.”
Ms. Tamás noted that the Baha’i community of Iran provides the world with an example of how to promote social change in a way that is in keeping with both legal and moral norms.
“The resistance of the Baha’is in Iran against oppression and tyranny comes down to their core belief in the oneness of mankind… Every aspect of the lives of the Baha’is in Iran has suffered from oppression, but in response they have worked for the betterment of themselves and the greater community. They reacted to the oppression of the government, not by assuming the role of a victim, not by rebelling violently, but by obedience to the government, by exercising ingenuity in overcoming the unfair restrictions imposed on them, and by their continuing outreach, even under the harshest of conditions, to their fellow Iranians, demonstrating their belief in the oneness of humanity.”
The audience enjoyed Ms. Tamás’ personal experiences of attending sessions of the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee debates on human rights and the sessions in Geneva of the U.N. Human Rights Council. She spoke directly of the moral challenge facing the world’s governments and their diplomatic representatives who must learn to overcome financial and other politicized motivations, and really address the intent of the international human rights regime: To protect individuals and communities around the world.
A highlight of the event near the close of the meeting was when an African Canadian grandmother stood up spontaneously in the audience in order to express her wholehearted approval of Ms. Tamás’ suggestion that the Declaration of Human Rights would benefit by a preamble asserting the oneness and unity of the human family. She said she couldn’t agree more, and thanked the organizers of the event. She and Ms. Tamás then embraced each other as the heightened emotion of the audience gave expression to a genuine feeling of oneness and solidarity, all nodding in agreement that the consciousness and reality of that oneness should be both the ultimate objective of human rights work as well as a powerful means of sustaining and encouraging the hard work of advancing human rights around the world.