Over the past 17 years, four human rights defenders from the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) have attended Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP). The latest attendee is Sang Hnin Lian, who participated in the program this past June.
Based in Burma/Myanmar, the CHRO consists of four programs: The Indigenous Peoples Development Program, Human Rights Documentation, Peace and Good Governance, and Human Rights Education and Religious Freedom. Lian is responsible for the latter.
More specifically, Lian teaches human rights at the Chin Christian University and works with religious organizations to promote peaceful coexistence in Burma/Myanmar. Lian says this is the first time that human rights education has been part of the curriculum of a private, Christian-based institution in his country. This is one way in which he has been able to track the impact of the work he and his organization has done over the years.
At the university, Lian delivers human rights lectures to students in varied programs such as Theology, Business and Liberal Arts. Just last week, he incorporated aspects of what he learned at the IHRTP into his lecture for Business students. According to him, the knowledge he acquired during the program was new and distinctive.
“Equitas has very different designs and strategies,” said Lian. “The program is centered around the participants, where we all share our own experience and the program is based on the participant themselves. Other trainings I’ve participated in were based on experts, models, or were designed for law students. The IHRTP is designed for a very diverse group of people.”
Indeed, the participative approach is one of the most unique aspects of the program. In providing a space for everyone to be heard and their voices equally valued, participants learn how social issues affect different people. This often results in improved perspectives on some of today’s most divisive social conflicts.
Lian says he appreciated being exposed to the struggles surrounding Canada’s Indigenous peoples during a presentation by the Secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Kenneth Deer, as the CHRO also focuses on the development of the rights of Burma/Myanmar’s Indigenous peoples. Out of all the presentations given during the program, what he valued most was learning about how Indigenous rights differ around the world.
Lian’s decision to pursue a career in human rights was for a few reasons. His firsthand experience of the religious/ethnic oppression that currently looms over Burma/Myanmar in the wake of the world’s longest civil war was one of them. The second reason is his belief in a personal responsibility to demand for better.
“We cannot always depend on somebody else from another place or another country to speak on behalf of us,” said Lian. “[We have] to speak up for ourselves.”
That isn’t to say that help isn’t welcome or appreciated. As mentioned, the CHRO has been sending human rights defenders to take part in the IHRTP since 2001 so they can come back and use the skills they acquired to be more effective in their methods of teaching human rights. Lian says that because the IHRTP is modified and adapted over the years to accommodate participants from all over the world, there is always something new to learn from one year to the next.
In addition to training human rights educators at the IHRTP, Equitas also actively works in Burma/Myanmar by addressing the challenges related to the continued violence against religious and ethnic minorities in the country after five decades of military rule. The focus is on promoting human rights, inclusion and religious harmony, and equipping communities to resist violent conflict. To learn more, click here.
In partnership with the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Equitas is also holding a five-day forum and workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka this fall in the goal of promoting human rights, inclusion and religious harmony projects. More specifically, the project aims to
- Broaden the understanding of practitioners and activist scholars working on the subject
- Enhance the capacity of human rights actors and those working on the ground to respond to conflicts and tensions at the local and national level
- Look at opportunities for intervention at the local, national and global levels
For more information and a detailed schedule of the forum/workshop, click here.
By Katelyn Thomas, Communications Intern