Residents read, share ideas about human rights in Amherst

  • People gathered around the Merry Maple tree in downtown Amherst to read the Declaration of Human Rights on Friday evening. PHOTO BY TALVIN DHINGRA

For the Gazette
Monday, December 20, 2021

AMHERST — Thirteen people gathered around the Merry Maple tree in downtown Amherst to read the Declaration of Human Rights last Friday evening — the town’s annual celebration of its adoption by the United Nations.

“I think it’s important to just take a moment to realize that all of us have the luxury of schooling and different rights that we all have day to day,” said organizer Phillip Avila, co-chair of the Human Rights Commission. “I think it’s important that we acknowledge that some of us don’t [have these rights], and some countries don’t as well.”

The declaration contains 30 articles that cover all areas of human rights.

“Each year there’s always a different article that’s more poignant than other articles,” Town Council member Mandi Jo Hanneke said.

Amid a global pandemic, these articles and this recognition of human rights is as important as ever.

“Inequality in health care as well as inequality in access to food and shelter are seriously threatened by COVID, and so in many ways, [human rights] are even more important,” said Town Council President Lynn Griesemer.

“The article on education was poignant to me,” Hanneke said.

Article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality.

“Last year we were going through serious times where our young children were not necessarily being given an adequate education because of a public health emergency, and that sat with me,” Hanneke said.

A large portion of the event revolved around the acknowledgement of the fact that American citizens have easy access to the human rights stated in the declaration, and we should be grateful for that because not everybody does.

Said Town Manager Paul Bockelman: “When you read it, you start to think about all the rights and about how many people don’t have the rights that are articulated in the declaration. Most people in the world don’t. We’re privileged in this country to have access to these rights, but they need to be protected.”

Talvin Dhingra is a student at Amherst Regional High School.