United Nations representative reports from human rights events in 2019

Doris Abdullah (at left) with United Nations under secretary-general Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (second from left) and other participants at an End Violence Against Women event in November 2019. Photo courtesy of Doris Abdullah

Doris Theresa Abdullah, the United Nations representative for the Church of the Brethren, has attended several human rights events on behalf of the denomination in 2019. Commenting on the need for peace and light in the world, she noted that the events highlighted many concerns including “the darkness of hate, religious intolerance, greed, racism, discrimination, bigotry, and ignorance.”

Abdullah said that she focused primarily on human rights events “because I want to bring more awareness to the horrors of discrimination where a change of one individual heart can make a difference. We each have control over how we treat the human standing beside us and we are all responsible for how we treat children,” she reported, citing Isaiah 26:2-3.

Following are excerpts from her reports:

Albinism awareness commemoration of people with disabilities titled “Standing Strong,” held June 13 at the United Nations headquarters: Albinism is caused by a lack of melanin or pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. One in 1,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa are affected, while only one in 17,000 to 20,000 are affected in Europe. Impaired vision and vulnerability to the sun’s ultra-violet rays are the most noted of albinism disabilities and they are 1,000 times more likely to develop skin cancer. Children with albinism stay away from school in some African countries because they are attacked due to the belief in witchcraft associated with their skin coloring. These children are therefore deprived of an education. The UN independent expert Ikponwosa Ero reported that in extreme cases “people with albinism, from cradle to grave, are hunted and their body parts are wanted–everything from their heads to their toes, their hair, their nails and even their feces are collected.” The selling of albino children is not uncommon among the traders in trafficking and human slavery.

Discussions on contemporary forms of slavery, held Oct. 11 at the UN headquarters and Oct. 25 at Scandinavia House: Urmila Bhoola, a UN expert on contemporary forms of slavery, reported 10,000 people per day will have to be freed to end slavery by the target date of 2030. Some 98 percent of enslaved women and girls endure sexual violence. According to the International Labor Organization, 40 million people are enslaved, one quarter of them children, with 64 percent of the enslaved working in the private sector. Children are sold for child prostitution, child pornography, transfer of organs, and criminal activities. Economically developing countries are seeing large increases of enslaved people as they expand their work forces.

An event on violence against older women on June 6, and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25: Women and girls are still considered inferior to men and of lesser value 30 years after the adoption of the convention on the Rights of the Child, 25 years after the Beijing World Conference on Women, and 40 years after the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women. In addition, women may be neglected because of their age or disabilities, subject to harmful stereotypes, forced into marriage at an early age to older men, deprived of educational and other opportunities, forced into slavery due to indebtedness of family or kidnapping, abuse, and trafficking, and subject to violence in the home, family, and school. Rape victims of wars and conflicts are further traumatized as they are shunned and ostracized within their own communities and families.

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