The current health emergency lays bare the extent to which we all rely on each other
– family, friends, neighbours and strangers – and that our ongoing well-being depends on kindness and mutual respect. In other words, a commitment to basic human values will help us through this difficult time and will strengthen us all once it is over
So, please stay hopeful, helpful and human
. The government is taking all sorts of action that, in normal times, as a human rights organisation, we would be loudly questioning. But these are not normal times. Drastic action is justified, so long as it can be shown to be necessary and proportionate to the dangers we all face.
We would add one plea to the government and to wider society. We are all affected by this crisis, but we are not all affected equally
In addition to the elderly and those in poor health, there are many on the margins of society – like victims of trafficking, the homeless and immigration detainees – who must be terrified about what their future holds. Let’s ensure that government safety nets and public action catch everyone, and that no-one falls through.
. It’s a word we’re hearing a lot. Last year, René Cassin adopted Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous speech – “Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home”
– to underpin our work to emphasise the value of human rights to ordinary people in everyday situations.
Today, the government is rightly urging us to #StayAtHome to help tackle the virus emergency. But, to a marginalised group of people, that plea may ring very hollow when a recent Home Office consultation seems intent on denying them a home
. Our response to that consultation
on ‘unauthorised encampments’ concluded:
“As the Jewish voice for human rights, René Cassin speaks from specialist experience of the devastation caused by the loss of house and home. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and nomadic ways of life, have long been a part of the country we call home, they belong.”
“Just the antidote we all needed to the doom and gloom that is occupying us all right now”
– was one of the many positive reflections we had from women who came to our ‘Righteous Women’ Seder
, held in early March just before the scale of the coronavirus pandemic made public gatherings impossible. Others called it “brilliant”, “lovely” and “wonderful”. Hopefully, you can get a sense of the magic of the event by reading Debora Singer’s blog
and checking out our Seder Haggadah companion
For obvious reasons, we are stopping planned public activities. We will be concentrating on developing our work in the virtual space and planning for the post-crisis world. For example, we are working on:
- Re-launching our ‘Hummus and Human Rights’ series, with virtual speakers. You may have to supply your own hummus!
- Virtual workshops & webinars – ‘How to save the Human Rights Act’; ‘Slavery and Homelessness – see it, say it, sort it’; and ‘CutItOut’
- A pack of educational resources on how to deliver human rights sessions
Watch our social media and website for the latest developments on these and other new intiatives.
We have temporarily closed the office, and the team will be working from home. If you need to contact us, please email [email protected]
– which is constantly monitored – rather than phoning or calling in person.
If you have any comments or questions about any aspect of René Cassin's work
, I would love to hear from you – please email me via [email protected]
With very best wishes for you and your loved ones in these very difficult times.
PS If you would like to make a one-off or regular donation to help our work
, you can do so via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate