Youth for Human Rights International Holds Local Forum on Youth Violence

10 May 2011

With the February shooting of a Muir High School student and the rash of gun-related incidents that followed recently in the Pasadena/Altadena area, the community continues to be plagued with bloodshed.

To raise awareness and community unity, Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) sponsored a forum on “Youth Violence and Human Rights, Creating Safer Communities through Education,” on Saturday, April 30, 2011 in the Old Pasadena Church of Scientology community room on South Raymond Ave.

The program opened with a short film on the story of human rights. This was followed by a number of speakers who delivered their thoughts in presentations.

Speaking were Porforio Frausto, Impact Coordinator, Outward Bound Adventures of Pasadena; Pasadena Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez; Randy Ertll, Executive Director of El Centro de Accion Social; Skipp Townsend, founder and executive director of 2nd Call; Detective Martin Pinedo, LAPD; Ms. Rebecca Pratt, Neighborhood Outreach Workers (N.O.W.); and Joseph Jay Yarsiah, YHRI’s program director for Africa. Three public service announcements video clips of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were played in-between the speakers.

Frausto, a 30-year veteran of the mediation of gang conflicts in Pasadena, emphasized that violence issues will never be resolved without well-meaning residents taking responsibility for their prejudices based on race, culture, religion and age that can divide local neighborhood from neighborhood, school from school, congregation from congregation.

Police Chief Sanchez defined violence as “an absence of hope and an absence of knowledge,” observing youth with no routes of inclusion in the society can fall into gang life as seemingly the only alternative. He pointed out Pasadena is a community with unique resources to provide young people with significant opportunities for contribution to change conditions for the better.

Chief Sanchez said, “When people ask what is the greatest threat regarding violence (for example, domestic, terrorist, gang), I answer ‘an apathetic community.’”

Tim Bowles, Director for International Development of Youth for Human Rights International, who moderated the forum, cited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s observation that “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“I believe that there is such a thing as ‘silence in action’ just as there is ‘silence’ in speaking one’s convictions,” Bowles said.

Randy Ertll, utilizing video clips of Salvadorian child soldiers and gang members, described his growing up in the violence-scarred worlds of El Salvador and South Central Los Angeles. Citing the work of the El Centro organization in local schools, Ertll stressed education as the means to prevent the recurring exploitation of young people, including recruitment into the violent gang life.

Jay Yarsiah, visiting Pasadena from Liberia, described his life as a three-time refugee growing up during 14 years of civil conflict in his native country. He presented “From the Ruins”, a short video on his work at YHRI’s African Human Rights Leadership Campaign, a training and competition that enables high schoolers to create effective human rights awareness campaigns.

Yarsiah announced his plan to implement a pilot human rights competition with Pasadena youth in September.

Eden Stein, President of the Church of Scientology of Pasadena, said, “We are proud to join forces with Youth for Human Rights International. Most people are unaware of their human rights. This makes it easy for their human rights to get violated. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is for all people, all nations, and all countries.”