Nov. 17, 2005 • Volume 14 Number 6

Center for Human Rights and International Justice Director David Hollenbach, SJ, center, talks with University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and guest speaker Mary Robinson following the center's opening event Nov. 3. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)


World events provided a sobering backdrop for the debut this month of Boston College's Center for Human Rights and International Justice, which had its official launch on Nov. 3 in Robsham Theater with a keynote address by Mary Robinson, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights. The center was profiled in a Nov. 12 Boston Globe article.

Center director Flatley Professor of Catholic Theology David Hollenbach, SJ, who also spoke at the Nov. 3 opening event, last week reflected on the recent riots in France and terrorist bombings in Jordan as discomfiting reminders of human rights-related dilemmas confronting the world.

"While there are some issues in those situations which may not specifically relate to our mission," said Fr. Hollenbach, "it's certainly true that we glimpse some very compelling questions about human rights and social justice. The events in Jordan, for instance, are an indication of the deep struggles going on within diverse religious cultures in regard to suicide bombings, and how to interpret human rights."

The center's associate director, Clinical Prof. Daniel Kanstroom (Law), says the violence in France - related to immigration and socioeconomic issues - holds some lessons for the US. "Those who propose guest worker programs without regard for the human element in immigration risk creating similar kinds of alienation and ostracism that, as we see in France, eventually boil over," said Kanstroom, who directs the Law School International Human Rights Program and earlier this month spoke on immigration and social issues at the University of Paris. "You cannot have immigration policy divorced from social policy."

Robinson, the former president of Ireland, told the audience at the Nov. 3 opening event that the new center can play a critical role in addressing the plight of the world's refugees, and in particular that of labor migrants facing increasingly stringent deportation policies.

"A significant number of asylum seekers today are not necessarily genuine asylum seekers but are just desperate to get out of the extreme poverty they're in - and all legal outlets are closed because of Fortress Europe, because of the shutting and harshness of the borders surrounding this country and other developed nations," said Robinson, now executive director and chair of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, a human-rights organization she founded.

For more information on the center, visit its Web site at

-Greg Frost and Sean Smith

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