Scientology And Me

June 8, 2009

Youth for Human Rights 2009 World Fosters Peace and Hope

Scientologist Brings Message of Human Rights to the World

For eight weeks, members of Youth for Human Rights International carried out the Sixth Annual Human Rights World Tour, led by Scientologist and International Association of Scientologist Freedom Medal Winner, educator Mary Shuttleworth. The Scientology Press Office interviewed Mary on what inspired her to undertake this project and what results were accomplished.

Scientology Today: You are not only the President of Youth for Human Rights, you also founded it in 2001. Why did you decide to do this?

Mary: As a young girl growing up in apartheid South Africa I saw firsthand the devastating effects of discrimination and the lack of the most basic human rights. Traveling abroad I realized that discrimination and slave-like conditions could be found far beyond the borders of my country. Children who do not know that they have human rights are vulnerable. As an educator I knew that teaching learners about human rights would be the first step for them to defend and protect not only their rights but also those of their peers.

Scientology Today: In less than a decade you have turned this idea into an international organization — Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI). What are you most proud of having accomplished?

Mary: Taking the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), an excellent but scholarly document, and depicting those rights in simple literature and videos so that anyone can quickly learn and teach the 30 articles enshrined in that document. We have brought the UDHR, a document for the people, to the people.

Scientology Today: You have just completed the 6th annual Youth for Human Rights World tour. In less than two months, you visited twelve countries. Why did you decide to do human rights world tours?

Mary: Human rights cannot be taught at people-it has to be with people. Because those rights need to relate to the people where they live, study, work and dream.

Nothing replaces meeting people and interacting with them where they live.By traveling to different countries I can see the issues people face and the outstanding efforts individuals are making to improve conditions. One face-to-face meeting accomplishes more than months of e-mails, phone calls or faxes.

This year our World Tour started in the US and wound its way through twelve countries: From Mexico to Barbados, Colombia and Argentina in the Americas, on to the Pacific and Australia and Timor-Leste (East Timor). From there we went to Jordon in the Middle East and Russia and Switzerland, and finally to Africa with Uganda and South Africa. Within the space of a couple of months, with the help of dedicated volunteers around the world, we spoke with hundreds of leaders, met thousands of students and reached millions through the media resulting in exponential expansion of global knowledge about human rights.

Scientology Today: What stands out about this year’s tour?

Mary: It was an inspiration to see how much support there is for human rights, and how many public-spirited leaders and dedicated individuals are adopting our program. United Nations officials, heads of state, ministers of education and so many other political and community leaders took it on themselves to teach human rights to the next generation as soon as they realized how easy it is to do so.

We learned the most profound lessons from the many wonderful people working hard to improve conditions with incredibly limited resources and under the poorest and most devastating conditions.

Scientology Today: What kind of impact is your campaign having on the world today?

Mary: When we started nine years ago, few people had even heard of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even high-level officials whom I interviewed did not know what their human rights were.

Today millions of people are learning about human rights through community groups, religious groups, schools and the media. Thousands of groups have incorporated the YHRI materials into their own programs.

We are making “Human Rights” buzz words!

Scientology Today: You are a Scientologist — what does this have to do with why you chose human rights as the project you wanted to create and support?

Mary: What I believe is beautifully expressed in The Creed of the Church of Scientology, which states that “Man is basically good; That he is seeking to survive; That his survival depends upon himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.”

I have witnessed extreme poverty and I have met children who are raising their brothers and sisters after their parents, families and even societies turned their backs on them. I have seen children dying of preventable diseases.

I have seen the effects of widespread illiteracy in the information age and I have listened to scholars discussing human rights with cold disconnect from the harsh realities faced by so many millions.

So I was inspired by L. Ron Hubbard who wrote, “Human rights must be made a fact, not an idealistic dream.”Scientology Today: Is there something that stands out about this year’s tour?

Mary: I was so impressed with the grassroots level work of local YHRI teams. Watching them in action in their own communities was amazing. During one of our meetings with top officials I listened to one of the YHRI youth leaders discussing human rights. He talked about the issues and the vital role that informed youth can play to help officials handle their local problems. That country has a majority youth population -more youth than adults. I watched the profound impact he created with his insight into the situations at hand and his clear explanation of solutions that can be brought about by teaching human rights to the youth. I was so incredibly proud!

Scientology Today: Where do you plan to go from here?

Mary: We are planning our sixth annual YHRI International Summit to bring together youth from around the world to discuss human rights issues and the important role of human rights education in raising the quality of life for young and old alike. And we are already planning the YHRI World Tour 2010. The exact route is not yet set but the countries are lining up with outreach and meetings that promise, once again, to expand YHRI exponentially!

Scientology Today: Do you have a message for people reading this interview?

Mary: It’s easy to teach Human Rights. Tell your friends, your family and your neighbors. Inspire them to teach Human Rights. As a non-profit organization we need the help of likeminded people, groups and organizations to help reach people in all corners of the world so that everyone has the opportunity to learn about the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and our human rights.


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