On International Human Rights Day, observed on 10 December each year, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is not only commemorating the day but actively continuing its human rights work on many levels.
For more than 70 years, the WCC has supported member churches and partners from many countries and contexts as they work to support their governments in making human rights a reality for all.
The WCC participates in the three annual sessions of the UN Human Rights Council and also in its Universal Periodic Reviews of individual countries, advocating on a wide range of human rights concerns including religious freedom, racism, and violence.
No country has achieved a perfect record on human rights – even those which score highly on peace and development indexes, face certain challenges.
This week, a delegation from the Church of Sweden, in partnership with the Christian Council of Sweden and the Sami Council of the Church of Sweden, is visiting Geneva to present some of the concerns that they face in their country, ahead of the review of Sweden by the Human Rights Council in January.
The delegation will speak to governments about the reluctance of Swedish migration authorities to consider converted asylum seekers as genuine Christians. "Many such individuals have had their asylum applications denied, leaving them at serious risk of religion persecution when they are deported to their countries of origin,” said Jennifer Philpot-Nissen, WCC programme executive for Human Rights and Disarmament.
The delegation will also raise the question of repatriation and reburial of human remains of the Sami people in Sweden. A significant number of such remains are kept in museums and universities, despite repeated requests since 2007 by Sami people who wish to repatriate and bury these remains in places or areas from which they originated, in accordance with Sami spirituality and traditions. “The church, together with the local and regional government and the Sami people, celebrated when a ceremony in northern Sweden took place on 9 August this year, involving the repatriation of 25 human remains after 69 years,” said Philpot-Nissen, “but this had taken six years of negotiations to achieve."
Philpot-Nissen added: “It is hoped that the issues they raised will be echoed by the Human Rights Council during the review of Sweden next month, and that the Swedish Government will increase efforts to address these concerns.”