Preempting the Violence That Comes of Intolerance

Judith S. Goldstein, Humanity in Action's executive director, with a board member at a dinner Tuesday.
Judith S. Goldstein, Humanity in Action's executive director, with a board member at a dinner Tuesday. (Courtesy Of The German Embassy)
By Nora Boustany
Friday, November 18, 2005

Hindsight is easy. Thinking ahead is harder. While governments are consumed with investigating terrorism and genocide, one group of concerned global citizens strives to protect endangered minorities and stands against intolerance before violence occurs.

Founded in 1998, Humanity in Action trains American and European student leaders to "identify and surmount institutionalized violations in democratic societies," said the executive director, Judith S. Goldstein .

"Chronologically, it is pre-conflict resolution," she added.

The group, whose board of directors is based in the United States, has planning boards in Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany and France. Its programs are funded through contributions from individuals, corporations and governments.

About 350 students have gone through the program since its inception. The fellows undergo five weeks of core training that includes lectures given by human rights leaders, politicians, diplomats, scholars, artists and philanthropists. The students are challenged to explore innovative approaches to safeguarding human rights.

Senior fellows then can proceed to international internships at several sites, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the U.S. House of Representatives, the European Parliament, Interpol and the Anne Frank Foundation.

On Tuesday night, the group announced that it was launching a core program based in the United States. "The purpose of the American program is to have European students work with American counterparts so they see our models of integration, both our failures and successes," Goldstein said at a dinner hosted by the German ambassador, Wolfgang Ischinger .

After Hurricane Katrina , the public has debated the struggles of America's underclass. Mark Goldberg , a fellow in the Netherlands, said the group hoped to keep the discussion "alive."

Interns based in the United States will be assigned to nongovernmental organizations focused on minority issues.

For the past four years, European fellows sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) have interned with members of the Human Rights Caucus, of which he is chairman.

Goldstein's inspiration for founding Humanity in Action was the historical example of how Danish citizens and their monarch intervened to save the lives of Danish Jews during World War II.

"We are interested in the resistance to people who persecute minorities, and we are basically working in democratic societies," she said yesterday.

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