Thanks for a great conference.  We will load summaries of key events of the weekend in a few days.  We do plan to initiate a follow-up process and publication of conference proceedings.

If you can support this effort financially, please donate to Public Affairs Insttute, Alma College, 614 West Superior, Alma, MI 48801. 

Working with international partners
, Alma College’s Public Affairs Institute and Center for Responsible Leadership; George Mason University's School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution; Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs; Justice for North America for the Dominican Family; Partnership for Global Justice; the Osgood Center for International Studies; the Washington Theological Consortium; the Aquinas Institute; and the Fundacja Centrum Solidarnosci hosted a conference focused on assessing what has been achieved in 500 years of human rights advocacy. The conference included Sunday, December 4, 2011, the conventionally identified date in 1511 when Antonio de Montesinos delivered a sermon in Santo Domingo calling for reform of Spanish policy toward the indigenous. That sermon launched a Spanish debate about the human rights of the Indians, which in turn contributed to later advocacy of the principle that human rights apply to all people, regardless of nationality.  The new Spanish film Tambien La Lluvia (Even the Rain) has as its core purpose considering the legacy of Montesinos.

While concerned with the history of human rights, the conference had as its primary focus assessing current institutional and legal approaches to move forward in protection of human right.   The 500th anniversary was the ‘rationale’ for the conference. Given many contemporary experiences with problems in the global human rights regime, a review of universal definitions and protections of human rights would be justified even without the 500th anniversary.

While we have created in the last century many formal human rights statements and enforcement institutions, from the ILO to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and various courts built on the Nuremberg model, egregious violations of defined standards continue. For example, despite great progress in defining indigenous rights, there are many cases where specific native communities are being displaced or forced to adapt to norms imposed by outside dominant societies. The movement of millions of migrants as a companion to economic globalization has spawned numerous failures to protect labor and other human rights. Imbedded in this migration is the smaller but more appalling abuses arising from involuntary human trafficking. While many religious institutions and traditions provide models for justifying and defending human rights, of which Montesinos is a stellar example, movements linked to many religious traditions have been tempted to approve suppression of rights in the name of conformity.

Consequently, the general purposes of this conference were two:
  1. To review as many as possible of the dimensions of the history and current state of human rights protections; and
  2. To develop consensus from participants about the current state of human rights and the steps needed to build positively on the legacy of people such as Antonio de Montesinos.


The conference was held in Washington, D.C.  from December 2, 2011 to December 4, 2011 at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University [METRO STOP Virginia Squar- GMU].   On Sunday Dec. 4, at 3:00 p.m. we went to St. Matthews Cathedral, 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington DC.  There we had a wonderful  celebration of the Montesinos homily with a re-reading of it at Mass.
Statue of Antonio de Montesinos in Santo Domingo

Questions: Email or call 1.989.463.7203.