Dan Gelfand/The Hoya Rev. Robert F. Drinan, S.J., speaks in McGee Library Tuesday night about activism.

Former congressman Rev. Robert F. Drinan, S.J., spoke Tuesday about his passion for human rights activism, his experiences in politics and urged tolerance for Arabs and Muslims around the world in wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Muslims are not our enemies – to call them terrorists is wrong,” he said. “We are united as a nation; we have to do more to be civilized,” Drinan said.

Drinan emphasized the peaceful nature of Islam and called all Americans to be calm and fair in their response to the attacks. He also warned against creating a culture of “hysteria” similar to that which resulted in the World War II Japanese internment camps and the U.S.’s former fears of communism.

Drinan said his hope for fair and cautious action extended not only to the American public, but to the government as well. He recommended careful evaluation and questioning of every measure to be taken domestically and internationally and noted that in such a tense situation, the U.S. is “quite capable of making a big mistake.”

Currently a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Drinan is a former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts who served on several prominent committees, including the House Judiciary Committee and the House Select Committee on Aging. He has been a committed human rights activist and worked internationally with organizations such as the United Nations.

Drinan also spoke at length about the “renaissance of human rights” since the World Wars.

“Since 1945, every person, every nation has claim to economic and political rights,” he said as he detailed his experiences as an activist in the U.S. and abroad.

Drinan described the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, a United Nations summit that served to strengthen the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I’ve never seen such a display of people devoted to human rights.” He served as a delegate from the U.S. at the conference and helped create the Vienna Declaration of Programme and Action, a document that emphasizes the United Nations’ commitment to “recognizing and affirming that all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person.” Drinan’s other work with the United Nations includes a visit to Vietnam with the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He expressed discontent with the U.S. prison system and noted that the U.S. has not yet ratified the 1979 U.N. Treaty on the Rights of Women and Children.

Drinan emphasized his desire for a world movement to combat human rights violations against women and children and to fight hunger and the death penalty. According to Drinan, capital punishment “is the one place the U.S. violates human rights.”

Drinan’s deepest commitment was to the rights of refugees and recognized that this area should have special significance to Americans.

“The U.S. is a country of refugees,” he said. “We should say this is especially appealing for us.” As a Jesuit, he compared the plight of refugees to that of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

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