Human Rights & Religious Freedom - Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council (GOAC) at the UN
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2017 CSocD Summary
Human rights defenders have gone great lengths to protect the earth and community from degradation and extreme poverty; some have even given their lives. Berta Cáceras is a shining example of this sacrifice; she detailed how “we must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action”. Poverty is manifested when human rights are denied. Some of the most sinister ways are seen through land and water grabbing by the extractive industries; benefiting transnational corporations, these practices render communities poor and disenfranchised. Land and its resources, while important to all, have a particular significance for indigenous communities. An individual’s access to land and water is not only significant to health, sanitation, shelter and life, but also keeping the social fabric together. Local peoples are being displaced in many parts of the world; land grabbing has forced individuals to leave their homelands and begin anew. This displacement is dividing these individuals from their local community and grassroots organizations, further deepening the divide.
These divides are seen within the United States and in many other parts of the world. Within the United States, construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has ignored the human rights of the local communities. Native American’s homeland is being destroyed, as well as their access to clean water. On a global scale, transnational corporations fail to see the long term effects that directly impact the land, water and community; “Southeast Asia has become one of the hotspots of the global land grab phenomenon, accounting for about 30 percent of transnational land grabs globally”. Land and water defenders have advocated against this form of violation of human rights, taking action to highlight injustice to the earth and community. We stand in solidarity with them and honor, in particular, the life of Berta Caceras—teacher and activist who gave her life for the cause.
This panel discusses issues faced by communities as well as diplomatic, political, and legal solutions.
 Neef, Andreas. Land Rights Matter! Anchors to Reduce Land Grabbing, Dispossession and Displacement. Brot für die Welt –Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst Evangelisches Werkfür Diakonie und Entwicklung e. V. Berlin, September 2016. Pg. 8
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Fr. Nicholas Barla Bio Photo
Rev. Nicholas Barla
Advocate for Indigenous Peoples
Fr. John Paul Pezzi Bio Photo
Rev. John Paul Pezzi, mccj
Expert on Land Grabbing
Christina Hioureas Bio Photo
Christina Hioureas, Esq.
Chair of United Nations Practice Group
Foley Hoag LLP
Nicholas Anton Event Photo
Nicholas Anton, Moderator
Coordinator of UN Programs
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
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Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Despite recognition by international accords, religious liberty is under attack in many countries around the world. Surviving oppression both historically and today, the Orthodox Church is certainly no stranger to human rights violations and the lack of religious liberty. Through its 2000 years of experience, and with Christ at its core, the Church advocates for human rights, putting people before profit.
Since 1985, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council (GoArch at UN) has advocated as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations on the issues of human rights and religious freedom. Currently, the GoArch at UN is a contributing member of the following NGO Committees related to this topic: