On this Independence Day, Many Children Are not Free

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An open letter to my three representatives in Congress:

As I write you, Independence Day fireworks are bursting in all their glory in New York City and Washington. Indeed, like you, I treasure the many freedoms of our great country with immense gratitude. However, it is hard to do so at this moment, when over 2,300 children are suffering from physical deprivation and emotional torture (a word I do not use lightly), illegal under both U.S. and international law. The New York Times recently reported a psychologist and a pediatrician who visited one of these deplorable border detention facilities noted that children are even being prohibited from giving one another physical comfort, not even a hug! Or, to quote an article in The Atlantic, “Children Cannot Parent Other Children.”

As such, I urge you to visit at least one of the Border Patrol detention camps and report what you have seen.

According to one civil rights group, RAICES, “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Ayanna Pressley came because they want to hear more than just what Border Patrol agents have to say. We know that Customs & Border Protection (CBP) practice is to cover up their unjust practices. That’s why the Congresswomen joined immigrant rights groups in touring a Border Patrol facility.”

I now call on you to join Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and visit these facilities to see for yourself and to hold CBP and all representatives accountable.

Sincerely,

Daniel L. Berek
New Jersey, USA

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On Behalf of a Ten-Year-Old Girl: “Is This Who We Are”?

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“Is this who we are?” The title of this op-ed piece is very apt. It follows on an article in Buzzfeed, which describes a 10-year-old undocumented girl with a severe developmental disability. The girl, born in Mexico but brought to this country when she was three months old, was detained after she just had emergency surgery. So, I ask the same question: “Is this who we are?”

 

There are ways in which we can take action. The American Civil Liberties Union is leading a campaign to contact elected officials; the effort has been gaining publicity on Twitter and other social media channels via the #FreeRosa hashtag. We cannot remain silent. It’s not who we are.

 

Remembering a Champion of Humanity

The Nobel Committee called Elie Wiesel a “messenger to mankind.” He is one of the people I most admire – and for good reason. On July 2, 2016, Elie Wiesel passed away. His words of wisdom and compassion, told with utmost elegance, will live on in his many writings and speeches.

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Elie Wiesel in 2009. Photo by Beni Markovski, via Wikimedia Commons

I include a few links:

 

“Elie Wiesel gave voice to the voiceless victims of the Holocaust and bore witness in the name of humanity to one of the great crimes against it. His was the voice of memory when others sought to forget, and of defiant hope in the face of despair. He spoke for an entire murdered generation, and did so with dignity, humanity and grace. He was a great survivor, a great Jew, and a great humanitarian. His work was a blessing; so may his memory be.”

-Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Baruch dayan ha’emet!  Thank you, Elie, for being such an important part of my life!

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize: A Stunning Endorsement of Peace and the Welfare of Children

The awarding of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Muslim, and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian Hindu, comes as such welcome news! It’s a powerful endorsement of peace among different nations and faiths, as well as the welfare of children.  This news is very much in line with Janusz Korczak’s philosophy of the Child’s Right to Respect.
http://huff.to/1snrtfp

We Are Confronted with Hate and Are Finally Waking Up to a New Tragedy

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   Three weeks ago, some 300 people vanished without a trace.  This incident does not involve an airliner, cockpit voice recordings, and radar blips.  All 300 people this time are children, young girls abducted from a place where they should have been safe—their school in the northern Nigerian community of Chibok.  Violence against children and violence against women and girls is not new.  That it still exists, however, defies description or logic.  This problem has been brought to the conscious of the world recently by Malala Yousafzai and Half the Sky, a searing account of the plight of women and girls worldwide by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn; human trafficking and the sex trade of minors figure prominently. 

   The world is waking up, taking notice, and crying out.  Usually when a phenomenon goes viral, it is something that is, at best, entertaining but superficial.  This time, however, social media has been used for the common good.  Ramaa Mosely, an artistic director and mother of two from Los Angeles started the now-famous hashtag #BringBackOurGirls; this has now become a global rallying cry, letting the perpetrators know that the world is watching and will not stop until those girls are safe.  Malala Yousafzai, herself a victim of extremist violence, has started a fund to help girls worldwide, in honor of those Nigerian girls; please visit the site, at http://malalafund.org/ and sign up.  Nicholas Kristoff, long a champion of the welfare of girls and women, wrote an excellent piece in the New York Times.  We often feel helpless in the face of such tragedy.  He offers readers causes they can support to honor those girls, as well as mothers on this Mother’s Day.  I recommend it highly: http://bit.ly/RpjDBF .  His earlier, May 3, article is also extremely important: http://nyti.ms/1hDstSD 

    News anchor Katie Couric spoke at great length with Nicholas Kristof, Nigerian human rights leader Hafsat Abiola, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Ramaa Mosley; please watch it here: http://news.yahoo.com/video/crisis-nigeria-120000691.html .  The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, in a powerful op-ed statement, said, “This horrific act offends our common humanity and demands global outrage and action.  We have a responsibility to rally behind the parents, people and government of Nigeria and bring the girls back home safely.”   http://bit.ly/1noMBPq

    For all of us on the social media, there is a petition at Change.org: http://chn.ge/SDkHCK

   There is a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/bringbackourgirls?ref=nf

   And there is a Flickr group, where photographers have been spreading visual representations of the famous hashtag, at https://www.flickr.com/groups/2604610@N25/ which is where I posted the picture that accompanies this posting.

   Finally, as Malala reminds us, these terrorists do not represent Islam—or any other religion for that matter.  They are a band of hoodlums who represent nothing other than their own lawless, warped agenda.  This public campaign is our best weapon against such forces of hate that affect all decent people, especially children.

 

 

International Literacy Day, 2013 – Literacy Is a Fundamental Human Right!

According to UNESCO, “Literacy is a right and a foundation for lifelong learning, better well-being and livelihoods. As such it is a driver for sustainable and inclusive development.”  The right to an education was espoused by Dr. Korczak and enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  UNESCO’s 2013 statement continues, “Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.”

The general Web site with links is here:  http://bit.ly/14H2DH3
With another article: http://bit.ly/18Qsbmf
And an informative infographic: http://bit.ly/17SvkAY

The latter shows that the literacy rates in nations around the world.  While there has been progress, 57 million children out of school face a life of illiteracy and poverty.  This would have been a major concern to Janusz Korczak and will
continue to be in the minds of dedicated educators and child advocates everywhere.

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