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.

Local Imam Presents a Muslim Perspective on Abraham at Large Local Gathering

HICKORY – Imam Tamir Mutakabbir is a native Floridian who served in the U.S. Navy when Jimmy Carter was president, but he now holds a masters in Counselor Education and a masters in Pastoral Counseling Psychology and is currently writing his dissertation in Pastoral Counseling Psychology. Mutakabbir also serves as an Imam for a diverse local community of Muslims in Statesville and Rock Hill. On Sunday, he presented a Muslim perspective on Abraham to about a hundred local residents as part of the four-part study of Abrahamic faiths sponsored by the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC).

The crowd was greeted by Reverend Jill V. Isola, Pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Hickory, who hosted the session. The African American Imam opened his talk on Abraham with a prayer and devotional reflection on Billy Graham before noting the deep historical connections between the Presbyterian Church and the Muslim community in this part of North Carolina. Davidson College, founded in 1837 by The Concord Presbytery, is home to the only known surviving American slave narrative written in Arabic.

Omar Ibn Said, born to a wealthy West African family around 1770, was abducted and sold into slavery in 1831. He was transported to Charleston, South Carolina and eventually escaped and was recaptured and jailed near Fayetteville. It was here that he “came to the attention of a prominent North Carolina family after filling ‘the walls of his room with piteous petitions to be released, all written in the Arabic language,’” as documented in ‘A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said’ (published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2011). Said became a local celebrity in North Carolina and was asked to write his life story.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (Jan 2018), “Some scholars estimate 20 percent of the enslaved men and women brought to the Americas were Muslims.” In a recent article about Thomas Jefferson’s 1734 edition of the Qur’an the magazine notes that Islam was “[o]ften practiced in secret, reluctantly abandoned, or blended with other traditions,” and that “these first attempts ultimately did not survive slavery. But the mere existence of Islam in the early republic is evidence that religious diversity in this country has a deeper and more complex history than many now know.”

Imam Mutakabbir was introduced by CVIC Vice President Rev. Don Flick, and his talk, and the question and answer session led by CVIC Program Chair Michele Francois, were live streamed (as were prior sessions) and can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council. This was the third presentation in their series, which included a Jewish perspective and a Christian perspectives in the first two gatherings. The final session will be hosted at the Belk Centrum at Lenoir-Rhyne University (LRU) on March 4 where the discussion will be led by Dr. Mindy Makant, Professor of Religion at LRU. The discussion will begin at 2:30 pm and conclude by 4:00 pm, including time for questions and discussion.

The study series is based on the book ‘Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths,’ published by Bruce Feiler in 2002. Feiler tells the powerful story of one man’s search for the shared ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 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. Rabbi Dennis Jones at Temple Beth Shalom in Hickory is the group’s current president. Julie Cline, CVIC’s Membership Chair, will be available at each event to accept membership applications from individuals or civic groups who are interested in participating in interfaith dialogue and cooperation in the Catawba Valley.



Imam Mutakabbir speaking at Northminster Presbyterian in Hickory.

Full list of speakers (and video):

  • Feb. 11: Temple Beth Shalom, Rabbi Dennis Jones (VIDEO)
  • Feb. 18: Corinth Reformed, UCC, Rev. Dr. Robert Thompson (VIDEO)
  • Feb. 25: Northminster Presbyterian Church, Imam T. A. Mutakabbir (VIDEO)
  • Mar. 4: Belk Centrum LRU, Dr. Mindy Makant (VIDEO)

Media inquiries can be directed to


NC NAACP President to Speak on Human Rights Day in Hickory

HICKORY – When he ran for President of the North Carolina NAACP, T. Anthony Spearman declared “I’m woke and I aint skerd!” Spearman, who served as a member of the Hickory Public Schools board from 2011 until 2014, believes that courage is the foundation to acts of civil disobedience and has been involved in community activism for the past 46 years. As a former campus minister, he rallied college students together over a number of just causes. He was among the Greensboro Pulpit Forum members who advocated for KMart employees in Greensboro in 1995-96, and he marched with Smithfield Workers in order to improve their working conditions.

Currently serving as pastor at St. Phillip African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Greensboro, President of the North Carolina NAACP, and President of the North Carolina Council of Churches, Rev. Spearman will speak at the Human Rights Day celebration in Hickory on Sunday, December 10 (2:30 – 4:00 pm) at First United Methodist Church in Hickory (311 3rd Ave NE, behind the Salt Block). The event is free and open to the public, and both secular and religious groups are invited to attend.

The annual celebration is hosted by the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) and commemorates the day in 1948 on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights following World War II. Last year CVIC hosted Renée Fink, a holocaust survivor from Holland who was sent into hiding from the Nazis, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Hickory. As they have done the last three years now, CVIC will also ask the Hickory City Council to issue a proclamation recognizing Human Rights Day and the need to defend human rights for everyone.

Rev. Spearman has been a constant participant with the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Peoples’ Assembly Coalition over the past ten years and is recognized as a staunch advocate for the LGBTQ community (a consultant with Faith in Action and Equality NC). He was one of 25 plaintiffs who fought hard against the School Opportunities Program or Voucher Lawsuit and was one of the first organizational plaintiffs in the Voter Suppression Lawsuit against Governor McCrory and the State of NC. He was one of the first seventeen persons arrested during the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement.

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. This is the third year in a row they are hosting a Human Rights Day celebration in Hickory, and representatives of the group will be available at the event to accept membership applications from individuals or civic groups who are interested in participating in interfaith dialogue and cooperation in the Catawba Valley.

You can RSVP for this event (optional) via Facebook, and please subscribe to our mail list for future updates on CVIC events.