Our Human Rights and freedoms are things most of us may not pay too much attention to on a regular basis as we go through our regular routines every day, but when they are threatened or taken from us, it becomes painfully obvious how valuable they really are. In support of National Human Rights Month, I want to share a personal experience of a time when my freedoms were jeopardized and the impact it had on me.
My family and I lived in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil when I was 16 years old. I spent the day at the beautiful Ponta Negra beach with my girlfriend and some friends. By late afternoon we climbed on the bus to head back home. Upon getting off at our stop, we started down the cobblestone road that leads to my house. We were nearly down the hill when a small red motorcycle with two people dressed in shorts, flip flops and black helmets appeared to my right… they passed us and made an abrupt U-turn coming to a stop right in front of us.
Before I knew it the passenger was off the bike and a dull colored revolver was pointed right at my head. It seemed like I could have jumped into the barrell. The man said, “Give me your backpack, now!” I trembled as I took it off and handed it to him, then we held our hands up and my girlfriend was in tears. As we started to shuffle towards my house, he yelled again, “Nope, keep walking down the road! Don’t go inside!” So we started to walk away from them wondering if they were going to leave or put a bullet in us… Luckily we heard the motor of the bike rev up and speed away before we turned back around.
They escaped with my wallet and some other valuables in my bag, but surprisingly what stuck with me most vividly over the years was the feeling I had in the moment of not being at freedom to do what I wanted, and having someone else exerting control over me. It has helped me to gain an increased appreciation for even the most basic of Human Rights and given me a very strong moral compass and compassion towards everyone despite their opinion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, etc.
It’s my belief that we can all play a role in being vigilant and acting in defense of those whose rights and freedoms are at risk, even in the smallest of circumstances.