Human Rights Day Service to Focus on the Right to Education

HICKORY – The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) invites the public to join them on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for their annual celebration of Human Rights Day. The service will be at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 10 in Grace Chapel at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. Bobbie Cavnar, the 2016 State Teacher of the Year for North Carolina, will be the keynote speaker and talk about education as a human right.

Copy+of+Copy+of+IMG_8944Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mr. Cavnar attended Florida State University and earned a Master of Arts in English from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2011. He started his teaching career as a student teaching intern at Marjory Stonemon Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and is currently an Advanced Placement Literature teacher and English Department Chair at South Point High School in Gaston County where he has taught for the past 14 years. Cavnar is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching excellence, and he serves as teacher advisor to the North Carolina State Board of Education and the Governor’s Education Advisory Council. He believes the opportunity of a free, public, and equal education offered to all Americans is not only fundamental to the success of our society but also to keeping the historical promise made in our own founding documents.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration affirms the right to go to school, continue your studies as far as you wish and learn regardless of race, religion or country of origin. Drafted by a diverse group of people from Australia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Universal Declaration was designed to prevent the repetition of the horrific human rights violations that had been committed during World War II. In 1948 the drafting committee of the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, an Episcopalian, who combined her passion for human rights with a political realism that many credit with making this accomplishment possible. A Lebanese academic, philosopher, and ethicist, Charles Malik, led the philosophical debate over the Universal Declaration, and the Chinese playwright, philosopher, diplomat and Vice Chair Peng Chun Chang is said to have argued for the universal validity of Confucianism. Rene Cassin, a jurist, judge, and legal advisor to Charles de Gaulle, wrote the first draft, based on a blueprint provided by John Humphrey, a Canadian secular humanist and Director of the UN’s Human Rights Division.

UDHR_Anim3Christian churches, whose leaders served as consultants to the Commission, hailed the passage of the Universal Declaration and claimed a share in credit for what they described as “one of the outstanding achievements of the United Nations since its establishment.” Christian mission organizations in particular welcomed “one of the most important and significant statements of its kind” from Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, the delegate from Pakistan, who rose to support the right of individuals to change their religious belief (Religion News Service, 1948). The wife of the president of Argentina, Evita Peron, made a last minute plea over the radio to the U.N. in favor of care for the elderly.

CVIC’s annual celebration of Human Rights Day is intended to engage the Catawba Valley community to help promote understanding of how the Universal Declaration empowers us and to encourage further reflection on the ways that each of us can stand up for rights, every day. As it has done the past few years, CVIC will again ask the Hickory City Council to issue a proclamation recognizing Human Rights Day and the need to defend human rights for everyone. CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration.

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Our letter to members and friends of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh

On October 30, the Board of Directors of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council paused in prayer to remember the lives brutally taken at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27. The Board resolved to send a letter to Pittsburg, which is included in full (with the Board’s prayer) below.

November 2, 2018

Dear Members and Friends of Tree of Life Synagogue,

Our Catawba Valley Interfaith Council upholds and supports you in your time of grief and sorrow. We came into being a few years ago to help build trust and understanding among the many faith groups in the community and to foster love that unites and celebrates diversity. The hate-motivated tragedy that you have experienced makes us more determined than ever to speak out and act out in ways that bring people together for the good of all.

Your congregation has experienced much suffering and loss; we suffer with you because when any part of the human family experiences acts of violence and expressions of hate, everyone is less safe. As we dream and plan for a new tomorrow, it is important that we labor together to break down all that separates and work together to construct a climate where everyone feels secure and loved.

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council stands with Tree of Life Synagogue as you deal with everything such a terrible expression of hate has caused. It is our hope that as all of us move through the healing process we may experience a brighter future for our faith communities and for our nation.

You will find enclosed a prayer used to open our October 30th Board meeting at which time plans were announced for a community service of Remembrance and Hope to be held at Temple Beth Shalom, here in Hickory, NC, on Saturday, November 3rd.

Blessings and Love,
CVIC Board of Directors

Rabbi Dennis Jones, Temple Beth Shalom
Rev. Donald P. Flick, United Church of Christ
Julie Cline, Unitarian Universalist
William Keener, Humanist
Mindy Makant, Ph.D., Evangelical Lutheran
Rev. Cliff Moone, Presbyterian
Rev. Nancy Stahl, Disciples of Christ
Michele Francois, Presbyterian
Barbara Laufer, Ph.D., Temple Beth Shalom
Rev. Patrick Campbell, United Church of Christ
Rev. Jill Isola, Presbyterian
Rev. Paul Christy, United Methodist
Robert Nehls, The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
John Esse, Ph.D., Buddhist

Opening Prayer Rev. Donald P. Flick
Catawba Valley Interfaith Council
Board of Director’s Meeting
October 30, 2018

God of all humankind and creator of the universe, you call us to love one another and share the community in which we live peacefully and in harmony with one another. We are to respect differences and rejoice in our diversity.

It is heart breaking and sad when the community climate is such that freedom and security is broken and violated….when others religions and freedom of expression is not respected.

We mourn the loss of life and the act of violence experienced this past week in Squirrel Hill, Pa.. and are saddened that such a climate of hate has invaded our society that such acts have become common occurrences. Our prayers are extended to those suffering from loss and the fear and uncertainty such acts bring about.

May such expressions of hate and misdirected thinking not turn us to despair but cause us to be more determined than ever to work for unity and understanding, trust and peace among all. Give us the wisdom, strength, and motivation to build strong loving relationships and an Interfaith Council that helps create a united community where love abounds and the challenges of the times can be successfully met.

While our prayer life may be different, Loving God, unite us in our effort to create a climate of peace and hope and love in all that we do. Amen.

Interfaith group hosts public discussions on LRU’s 2018-19 ‘Campus Read’

In Morocco, Laila Lalami “never had to look very hard or very far to find the kind of misfortune that drives people to desperate acts.” But through her stories, she “gives name to the unnamed; agency to the sidelined” and “gives voice to the silences of history” according to the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. One such story is told in Lalami’s debut novel, Hope and Other Pursuits, which details the journey of four Moroccan immigrants crossing the Straits of Gibraltar in a lifeboat seeking a better life in Spain. The book “evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco and offers an authentic look at the Muslim immigrant experience today.”

LailaLalami21On September 27, 2018 at 7 PM, Lalami will speak at PE Monroe Auditorium as part of LRU’s Visiting Writers Series, in partnership with the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC). The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are recommended in advance and may be obtained by calling 828.328.7206 or going to the box office in PE Monroe Auditorium on LR’s campus. As part of their partnership with LRU’s Visiting Writers Series on Lalami’s talk, CVIC will also be hosting free and public book discussions on Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits at various locations across the Catawba Valley in September.

HopeandOtherDanger300dpiAll discussions will be facilitated by members of CVIC, and participants in the discussions are encouraged to read the book beforehand. It can be found at a number of local libraries and book stores, or purchased online in hard cover, paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats. CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration. Their purpose is to create a more compassionate community and honor the rich diversity of religious, spiritual, and secular traditions in the community. For additional information about CVIC or these events, email CVIC at


Human Rights Day Essay Contest

The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council invites high school students from the Catawba Valley area to submit an original essay responding to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and what it means to them. Cash prizes will be given to the top three essays selected ($200 for 1st prize, $100 for 2nd prize and $50 for 3rd prize). Winners will read their essays as part of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council’s celebration of Human Rights Day which will be held at Lenoir Rhyne University’s Grace Chapel on Monday, December 10th at 7pm.

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

For this year’s 70th anniversary, the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council is highlighting Article 26 which declares everyone has the right to an education.

o Work must be original and provide citations using a generally recognized format such as MLA
o Word count of 700-1,000 words
o Electronic submission of essay in .pdf format to with “essay” as the subject
o Deadline for submissions is October 10th, 2018 at midnight
o Student must be available to participate in the December 10th celebration of International Human Rights
o Creativity is encouraged as long as it lends itself to oral presentation
o Submissions must include a cover page with the following details: student’s name, name and email of English teacher, name of school (home schoolers are also welcome to participate), student’s contact information (including phone number), age, and essay word count
o Winners will be notified by Nov 20th

NOTE: Submissions that do not follow the instructions will not be reviewed or considered.
Article 26 of the UDHR
1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

For additional information about CVIC or their HRD essay contest, email us at

Knowledge inspires awe, hope and positive action

This week’s meditation for the Faith & Values section of the Hickory Daily Record (July 7, 2018) was written by CVIC Board member and President of the Hickory Humanist Alliance (a CVIC group member), William Keener.

Humanists believe the good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge, but we also find inspiration in knowledge. While always tentative and subject to revision based on new evidence, human knowledge can inspire not only awe and wonder about our universe and our place in it but also hope for our own species’ ability to learn and solve problems. In this way, our knowledge can inspire positive action, guided by knowledge, to improve the human condition. On an individual level, knowledge of the risks associated with bacterial infections inspire us to take action guided by knowledge (antibiotics). And knowledge of the risks associated with preventable diseases inspire us to take action guided by knowledge (vaccinations).

This perspective is not unique to secular humanists or medical interventions. Many people with religious faith are also inspired to take action in other areas based on human knowledge. Katharine Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian, the daughter of missionaries, and the wife of the pastor of an evangelical church in Texas. She’s also a climate scientist who writes about “why a changing climate matters to real people, how we’re going to solve it, and what faith has to do with fixing this global challenge.” And Francis Collins is a “Bible-believing Christian” as well as a physician-geneticist who led the Human Genome Project. In an editorial for CNN in 2007, he noted that “evolution by descent from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things.”

While some find certain scientific findings heretical and refuse to accept them, too many others accept the findings but see them as cold and impersonal facts about our insignificant lives in a vast universe devoid of ultimate meaning. But for secular humanists, we are the agents who create meaning. And evolution shows us how we are connected to all life on Earth. From the birds and the bees that pollinate the dandelions in our yard to the dolphins at the beach and our beloved pets, we all share a common origin. One of the most awe-inspiring things that I’ve learned from science is how humans, and almost everything else in the universe, is made by stars. Aside from the hydrogen and helium created at the origin of our universe, all other elements – from the calcium in our bones to the iron in our blood – were formed in the nuclear furnaces of stars and blasted out into the universe in massive explosions, which we call supernovae, when stars die. As Carl Sagan once said, we are literally “star stuff, contemplating the stars…We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” What could be more inspiring, and meaningful, than that?

William Keener is the President of the Hickory Humanist Alliance and a member of the Board of Directors of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council.