Darius Makuja, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies, attended a special United Nations conference on Nov. 3 titled “Confronting the Silence: Perspectives and Dialogue on Structural Racism Against People of African Descent Worldwide.” The event, which was organized by the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights, was part of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent, which will extend from 2015 until 2024. Makuja and his colleagues sought ways to address structural and institutionalized discrimination against people from the world’s second-largest continent, and to achieve justice and equal human rights.
Makuja said that the issue resonates with him on two levels. First, as a native of what is now the Republic of South Sudan, he witnessed the ways in which racism caused “untold suffering” and led to civil wars in which millions of lives were lost. Second, as an educator it is important to him to prepare his students to live in a world that is increasingly diverse and interconnected.
“As a professor, I hope that I share with my students the importance of appreciating unity within diversity irrespective of nationality, race, gender and orientation, religion, ethnicity, or tribal affiliation in one’s life and relationships with others,” said Makuja, who teaches a course titled “Religion, Conflict and Peace in the African Context.’
During the conference, attendees listened to an address by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte, who has long worked to advance human rights. They also heard from Samira Rice, who son Tamir was fatally shot by police when he was 12 years old, and John Crawford, whose son John was fatally shot by police when he was 22 years old. The response to their words was “emotional, to say the least,” Makuja said.
“This conference presented a reality prevalent worldwide today,” he said. “In countries where (racism) is a fact of life for black people, there is a profound silence and people in those societies tend to ignore the obvious.”
Darius Makuja Faculty Page