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Helping Kids Be Responsible, Happy, and Successful

HUMAN DIGNITY,

HUMANITARIAN LAW, AND WAR

INTRODUCTION

So, why is an author of self-help books for kids writing a newsletter about Human Dignity, Humanitarian Law, and War? It’s because in one way or another, these subjects impact the lives of children and therefore, children need to understand them. This is especially true at this time with everything going on around the 20-year Afghanistan War.

         A PROGRAM FOR THE RED CROSS

Many years ago, I created a kids’ program on behalf of the American Red Cross about Human Dignity and Humanitarian Law. The program also addressed the subject of war. After years of work that produced eleven complete drafts, the program was finally approved.

But unfortunately, by the time the materials were ready for publication, the educational division of the Red Cross was suspended due to the onslaught of catastrophic events and overwhelming humanitarian need that required the organization to focus all of its efforts and resources on boots-on-the-ground triage. Consequently, the project I created was shelved "for the time being.”

But now, there could be no better time to share the information contained in the unpublished kids’ book at the heart of the program. This newsletter contains exclusive excerpts from the book that can provide knowledge about Human Dignity, Humanitarian Law, and war that, in one way or another, is likely to have some relevance or be of interest to your children.

HUMAN DIGNITY AND HUMANITARIAN LAW
A book by Joy Berry for the American Red Cross
Copyright by Joy Berry, July 2006

The Eight Parts of this book include:

PART ONE – Human Dignity
PART TWO – Being Treated with Human Dignity
PART THREE – Treating Others with Human Dignity
PART FOUR – Human Dignity and Fundamental Rights
PART FIVE – The Impact of War on Children
PART SIX – Humanitarian Law and Children During War
PART SEVEN – Humanitarianism During War
PART EIGHT – Being a Humanitarian

                                 PART ONE

HUMAN DIGNITY

Because you are a human being, you are valuable. This is true regardless of your: age, race, color, sex, language, religion, opinions, national, ethnic, or social origin, property, disability, or other status.

Because you are valuable, you have the right to live and maintain your dignity. Your dignity is your sense of pride and self-respect.

In order to maintain your dignity, you need to be treated with human dignity. This means that you need others to treat you respectfully.

                                 PART TWO

BEING TREATED WITH HUMAN DIGNITY

Being treated with human dignity requires that others acknowledge and address you respectfully. This means that they need to call you by a name that is acceptable to you.

Being treated with human dignity requires that others talk with you respectfully. This means that others cannot say demeaning or degrading things to you. They cannot say things that might demoralize you or cause you to feel or act inferior in any way.

Being treated with human dignity requires that others treat you fairly. This means that others cannot treat you as though you are more, or less, deserving than any other person. They must treat you as someone who is equal to every other person.

Being treated with human dignity requires that others treat you kindly. This means that others cannot be mean or cruel to you in any way. 

Being treated with human dignity requires that others do nothing to harm you in any way. This means that they cannot hurt you physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially.

Being treated with human dignity requires that others do not take, damage, or destroy your property.

Sometimes you might feel that others are not treating you with human dignity.

As much as possible, you need to avoid being around people who do not treat you with human dignity.

If you cannot avoid being around people who treat you with human dignity, you need to get someone to help you with the situation.

Choose a person you trust. Make sure that it is someone who is old enough and wise enough to help you. It might be a: parent, guardian, teacher, principal, school counselor, religious leader, close relative (such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle), or a trustworthy adult.

If the adult you talk to does not help you, talk to other adults. Keep talking to people until you find someone to help you.

                              PART THREE

TREATING OTHERS WITH HUMAN DIGNITY

Like you, every person is valuable and deserves to be treated with human dignity. This is true regardless of a person’s age, race, color, sex, language, religion, opinions, national/ethnic/social origin, property, disability, or other status.

Treating others with human dignity requires that you acknowledge and address others respectfully. This means that you need to call them by names that are acceptable to them.

Treating others with human dignity requires that you talk with others respectfully. This means that you cannot say demeaning or degrading things to others. You cannot say things that might demoralize others or cause them to feel or act inferior in any way.

Treating others with human dignity requires that you treat others fairly. This means that you cannot treat other people as though they are more, or less, deserving than other people. You must treat the person as someone who is equal to every other person.

Treating others with human dignity requires that you treat others kindly. This means that you cannot be mean or cruel to others in any way. 

Treating others with human dignity requires that you do nothing to harm others in any way. This means that you cannot hurt others physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially.

Treating others with human dignity requires that you do not take, damage, or destroy the property of others.

Sometimes you might encounter people who are not being treated with human dignity. When this happens, you need to encourage those people to avoid being around others who are not treating them with human dignity.

If a person cannot avoid being around people who are being disrespectful, encourage the person to get help.

                              PART FOUR

HUMAN DIGNITY AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

It is important for you to treat all people with human dignity at home, at school, in your community, and throughout the world.

An important part of treating all people with human dignity is respecting their fundamental rights.

A fundamental right is a privilege to which all human beings are entitled regardless of their nationality, race, religion, or political opinions.

All people’s fundamental rights require that they be treated humanely and not be killed, enslaved, tortured, treated cruelly, degraded, humiliated, or discriminated against.

These fundamental rights exist at all times, in every part of the world.

However, sometimes people’s fundamental rights are ignored.

This is especially true when groups of people cannot resolve their disagreements peacefully.

                              PART FIVE

THE IMPACT OF WAR ON CHILDREN

Resolving a disagreement by using military weapons to harm enemies or destroy things is called an armed conflict.

War is another word for armed conflict.

Combatants are people who fight in a war.

Civilians are people who do not fight in a war but are affected by it.

In war some combatants disregard the human dignity and fundamental rights of civilians. As a result, civilians are harmed or killed.

During war, combatants sometimes disregard the human dignity and fundamental rights of children.

For example, during war, children are sometimes deprived of necessities, like food, fresh water, and adequate shelter.

Without these necessities it is difficult for children to survive and grow.

Sometimes during war, children cannot go to school because it is too dangerous to do so.

Sometimes children cannot go to school because they are required to do other things instead.

Sometimes schools are damaged or destroyed during war.

Children who are prevented from going to school are deprived of their education.

Sometimes during war, children become separated from their parents.

This can happen when families are trying to get away from the fighting.

When children are separated from their parents they are deprived of the physical and emotional security that parents provide.

Sometimes, children are forced to fight in a war.

Sometimes children are forced to do slave labor to support war efforts.

During war, children are sometimes forced to witness horrible things being done to their family or other people.

During war, children are sometimes forced to endure horrible things being done to them.

                              PART SIX

HUMANITARIAN LAW & CHILDREN DURING WAR

There are rules that protect the human dignity and fundamental rights of children as well as other civilians during war.

These rules also protect the human dignity and fundamental rights of combatants who are unable to fight because they are wounded, sick, or have been captured.

The rules that protect both civilians and combatants are called International Humanitarian Law.

The purpose of International Humanitarian Law is to save lives and lessen suffering during war.

The basic rules of International Humanitarian Law include:

  • Civilians and civilian property must be protected from attack.
  • Civilians, wounded combatants, and prisoners must be protected and treated humanely.
  • Medical personnel, hospitals, and ambulances must be protected and allowed to help people.

International Humanitarian Law is defined and described in detail in international agreements like the Geneva Conventions.

Every country in the world has agreed to follow the rules that are contained in the Geneva Conventions. This means that all combatants everywhere are required to follow the rules.

There are special rules in the Geneva Conventions designed to protect every child’s human dignity and fundamental rights during war.

These rules include the following:

  • Children must receive the things that are necessary for their survival such as food, clothing, and shelter.
  • Children should be able to attend school.
  • Children should be able to practice their religion.
  • Children who are orphaned or separated from their families must be protected and cared for.  
  • Children who are separated from their families must be allowed to communicate with them. 
  • Children must be reunited with their families as soon as possible.
  • Children cannot be forced to fight in wars.

                             PART SEVEN

HUMANITARIANISM DURING WAR

A humanitarian is a person who works to protect and preserve human dignity, and make sure that people are treated humanely.

Humanitarian organizations are groups of people dedicated to preserving human dignity and helping to assist people in need.

The Red Cross is one of many humanitarian organizations around the world that helps people during wars and disasters.

                             PART EIGHT

BEING A HUMANITARIAN

You can be a humanitarian by getting involved with humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross.

Begin by learning as much as you can about the organization. This includes finding out if there is a local branch of the organization in your community.

Share with your parents what you have learned about the humanitarian organization. 

Ask their permission to become involved with it.

Talk with a representative at the organization’s local office.

Ask the person about ways you can help the organization in your community.

There are several ways that you can help a humanitarian organization.

You can donate money or other resources to the organization.

You can also get other people to donate money to the organization. This is called fundraising.

Many organizations can give you ideas for fundraising efforts.

You can help by spreading the word about an organization and its work.

Tell your friends and schoolmates about the organization and encourage them to become involved with it.

Write letters to community leaders and encourage them to support the efforts of the organization.

Report any humanitarian stories that you know about to your local newspaper, radio, or TV station.

What you do to help a humanitarian organization is important. But what you do in your everyday life is even more important.

Being a humanitarian begins with the way you treat the people you are with every day.

All humanitarians live by the Golden Rule, which is “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” This means that if you want others to respect your fundamental rights, you will respect their fundamental rights. And if you want others to treat you with human dignity, you will treat them with human dignity.

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                      CLOSING THOUGHTS

The recent events surrounding the Afghanistan War has reignited my thoughts and concerns about war in general. And while I am not certain about the solution to ridding the world of dictators, despots, and tyrants, I am certain that the solution is not perpetuating fear to drive a country into reckless spending on a military effort that far exceeds the military’s intended purpose to protect and defend. I am also certain that the solution is not allowing avaricious industrialists to line their own pockets and get rich by exploiting a military’s fiscal irresponsibility.

Recently the power of the people has resurfaced, and it is this power that needs to be employed to keep our military industrial complex in line. Doing so can free up billions of dollars that can be redirected to help our citizens—including military personnel—who need help. To ensure that this happens, all of us need to become informed and  involved with matters involving Human Dignity, Humanitarian Law, and war—even children.

Joy

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