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Human Rights in Africa is Focus of Villanova University’s Annual Catholic Social Teaching Conference

March 19-20 Event at Connelly Center on Main Campus Open to Public

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- many Americans take these inalienable rights for granted. But, around the world, and especially in Africa, millions struggle just to survive. Human rights activists and experts will meet March 19-20 at the Connelly Center on Villanova University’s main campus to examine how to bring hope, aid and peace to this beleaguered region at its Catholic Social Teaching and Human Rights Conference.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature presentations from prominent human rights activists, academics and relief organization representatives with a special emphasis on South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pre-registration is required either online or call 610-519-5431.

Two keynote speakers will be featured at the conference on March 19. The Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., Director of the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice, will deliver an address on “Pacem in Terris and Human Rights” at 4:30 p.m. in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center. Bishop John H. Ricard, S.S.J., Rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C., will speak about “Catholic Social Teaching and Human Rights” at 7:30 p.m., also in the Villanova Room.

With 14 sessions throughout the two-day conference, topics range from “South Sudan and the Burden of Independence: The Need for Education That Builds Nations,” which will be presented by Jok Madut Jok, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, United States Institute of Peace, to “Women and Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” to be presented by Marie Rose Mukeni Beya of City College of New York, while Daniel Griffin and Edward Kiely, will speak about Catholic Relief Services’ efforts in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively.

“The conference anticipates the 50th anniversary celebration in 2013 of Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in terris which has been called ‘the Magna Charta of human rights,’” Barbara Wall, Vice President of Villanova University’s Office for Mission and Ministry, said.

According to the Vatican website, Pacem in terris, the peace encyclical, enjoins all men of goodwill, Catholic and non-Catholic, to resolve conflicts, not by resort to arms, but by negotiation. It calls for a respect for human rights, stating that, “Man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means necessary for the proper development of life.”

The decision to focus on human rights in Africa was natural and undisputed, according to Wall.

“Last year we asked members of our Editorial Board of the Journal of Catholic Social Thought which issues and concerns were of prime importance in examining ‘the signs of the times’ through the lens of Catholic social teaching. The response was unanimous: human rights in Africa,” Wall said.

She added, “We are humbled and pleased to welcome a preeminent slate of speakers, and all those who support and work for peace and justice, to this year’s Catholic Social Teaching Conference. The community is warmly invited to join in this celebration of the right of all mankind to live in peace.”

Visit for a full schedule of events.

The 2012 meeting marks the 10th year Villanova University’s Office for Mission and Ministry has sponsored a Catholic Social Teaching Conference. Past themes considered at the event include war and peace, globalization, racism, ecology, human work, health care, criminal justice, worker justice, and global poverty.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.