Alpha Gamma Phi, the Indiana University Northwest chapter of the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society, in cooperation with the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, will host a week’s worth of movies and guest speakers starting March 23 as part of the university’s first-ever Human Rights Awareness Week.
Topics to be highlighted that week include the International Criminal Court, Northern Ireland, Latin America, and human rights in academics. On most days, related documentary features will be screened in advance of the evening’s keynote speaker. There will also be a letter-writing campaign in Moraine Student Center; from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. each day, students will be able to learn how to write letters on behalf of political prisoners or other victims of human-rights violations.
“I’ve been in contact with Amnesty International, and they told me that letter-writing campaigns and petitions have actually led to people being released from prison,” said Alpha Gamma Phi president and IU Northwest senior Christopher Mercado, who applied for the $1,651 Pi Sigma Alpha grant that is funding Human Rights Awareness Week on campus. “We’re going to have letter-writing workshops where people can learn how to write these letters and mail them off.”
The lineup of Human Rights Awareness Week events is as follows:
Monday, March 23: “While the World Watches: The International Criminal Court and the Advancement of International Law,” featuring Ms. Melanie Partow from the International Criminal Court, 7 p.m., Savannah Auditorium; presentation to be preceded by the Amnesty International film “Justice Without Borders” at 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 24: “Too Long a Sacrifice: Human Rights Abuses in Northern Ireland and How Justice Can be Achieved,” featuring Mr. Matt Morrison from Thar Saile, Irish American Unity Conference, at 7 p.m. in Savannah Auditorium; preceded by the film “The Patriot Game” at 5 p.m. There will also be a showing of the film “War and Peace in Ireland” at 12 p.m. In Moraine Student Center.
Wednesday, March 25 -- “In Our Own Backyard: Terror and Violence in Latin America,” featuring Gretchen Pierce, Ph.D., from the Chicago-Guatemala Partnership, in Savannah Auditorium at 7 p.m.; preceded by the film “Killer’s Paradise,” at 5 p.m.
Thursday, March 26 -- “Human Rights in Academics,” featuring IU Northwest Professor of Philosophy Anja Matwijkiw, Ph.D., who will give the presentation “The Chicago Principles on Post-Conflict Justice: An Alternative to United Nations Legislation,” starting at 5 p.m. in Savannah Auditorium. This will be followed by a presentation from Bronik Matwijkiw, Ph.D., titled “Justice: A Modern Light on Human Rights,” starting at 7 p.m.
Mercado expressed enthusiasm for the entire lineup of speakers and said that each would bring different experiences and viewpoints to what he hopes will become a community-wide discussion about human rights and the importance of international law.
“Right now, this is the heyday for international law,” he explained. “The International Criminal Court is now convicting people who are guilty of human rights abuses. There are people from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda who have been tried under international law. If we can get people to understand more about international law and why it’s important, then maybe we can get more people to support it and follow it.”
Assistant Professor of Political Science Marie Eisenstein, Ph.D., who is the faculty advisor to Alpha Gamma Phi, noted that the Human Rights Awareness Week grant was the first ever applied for by the IU Northwest chapter, which was founded in 2006. She credited Mercado, who also edits a regular newsletter for the chapter, with generating enthusiasm for the honor society and its initiatives.
“We’re feeling very good about it,” Mercado said of the ambitious Human Rights Awareness Week program. “The funding is taken care of, and so we’re looking forward to putting on some really good events.”