Fairfield University Students Advocate for Human Rights in Iran

At Fairfield University, students in the course Politics of Humanitarian Action, taught by Dr. Janie Leatherman, partnered with Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network of higher education institutions and associations dedicated to protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom around the world, to advocate for human rights in Iran. Specifically, the students worked on the case of Dr. Mohammad Hossein Rafiee, a retired Iranian chemistry professor imprisoned in Tehran since June 2015. According to verdict records, Rafiee, who had a history of social and peace activism, was arrested without warrant and sentenced to five years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system by giving interviews to media who are against the state.” Fairfield students traveled to New York City to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights on Iran, and subsequently visited the United Nations. The students wrote a 50-page background report for SAR on Dr. Rafiee’s case and avenues for advocacy in relation to several key stakeholders.

In September 2016, Dr. Rafiee was released on medical furlough due to poor health and was allowed to recuperate at home, without guards.

“SAR is so grateful to Professor Leatherman and her students for their research and advocacy on this case,” said Clare Farne Robinson, Scholars at Risk Advocacy Director. “Their efforts were instrumental in moving Dr. Rafiee’s case forward, and specifically led to inclusion of Professor Rafiee in a recent report by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran. But beyond that, and perhaps most important, they provided much-needed hope to his family.”

Working for human rights reflects Fairfield’s Catholic commitment to defending the dignity of the human person. The course, Politics of Humanitarian Action, provides a way to enact this commitment and serves as the launch course of a new minor in Humanitarian Action. The minor, as envisioned, provides opportunities to students for service learning and experiential learning, connecting theory learned in the classroom with the realities of the world.  Read more about the Fairfield students’ work here.

CRS University Resources: Climate Change and More

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) University offers several resources and ways for your campus to engage in Catholic Social Teaching and climate change activism. One of the most prominent ways in which CRS University fosters student and faculty engagement is through the Student Ambassador Program. By getting involved with or starting chapters at their universities and colleges, students and faculty will have the opportunity to build their leadership skills through learning about and educating their campuses on poverty and injustice around the world. Visit the CRS University website for more information on how to get involved with your university’s chapter or even start your own!

Faculty have the chance to learn more and impart their knowledge of climate change and catholic social teaching through the Faculty Learning Commons (FLC) program. Through FLC, faculty may access resources for the classroom such as course material and discussion guides, multimedia presentations, and suggestions for local action. For the Fall 2015 semester, FLC offers informational sessions on the December 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris and the Climate Change in the World’s Most Vulnerable Places.

Additionally, CRS University offers the CRS Global Campus program. This is designed to promote global solidarity by forming an institutional partnership between CRS and the member colleges and universities. The partnership gives Global Campuses access to training and professional development, CRS staff and partner speakers and academic and campus resources. For more information on the program and how to get your campus involved, please visit the Global Campus program website.

Specifically related to environmental justice, CRS University has begun the “I am Climate Change” social media campaign, which is directed towards college students. In addition to instructions on how to get involved on social media, the website has a full calendar of campaign events, including rallies, advocacy trainings, and more. The campaign also offers an easy format to contact your senator and representative, with a pre-written letter urging the addressee to approve funding for President Obama’s $500 million request for the Green Climate Fund. “I am Climate Change” encourages followers to reflect upon and live by the mantra: “I am the cause. I am the solution. I am climate change” and to use the hashtag #iamclimatechange where ever possible.

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