Georgetown students gather in Red Square


Berkley Center Student Co-Leads Hoyas for Human Rights Summit

By: Domenic De Santes

May 10, 2023

Hoyas for Human Rights, a student organization at Georgetown University, hosted its first-ever summit across Georgetown’s campus on Friday, March 31. Hoyas for Human Rights partnered with organizations from across campus to provide programming and information related to human rights throughout the day.

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs hosted an informational table for students to learn how they can develop and incorporate their interest for religion and human rights through various Berkley Center student programs.

Student Programs for Human Rights

The Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs (REWA) minor, Doyle Global Dialogue Program, and Education & Social Justice Project (ESJ) Fellowship all give students the opportunity to explore the intersection of religion and world affairs through several lenses, including human rights issues. For example, in recent years one ESJ Fellow researched the impact of human rights education at Bethlehem University in the West Bank, and one REWA student’s capstone project explored the human rights implications of just war theory for drone warfare.

One of the co-founders of Hoyas for Human Rights is Gwyneth Murphy (SFS’23), an undergraduate student in the Walsh School of Foreign Service with a major in international security and a minor in religion, ethics, and world affairs.

“Classes like Islam, Democracy, and Global Terrorism and Martyrdom and Meaning equipped me with the tools to understand the world with greater nuance and to insert a human rights ethos at the center of everything I do,” said Gwyneth, who attributes much of the inspiration for Hoyas for Human Rights to her REWA courses.

For her REWA capstone project, she studied religious in-access as torture in international and domestic prisons and investigated how to grapple with our past to ensure the protection of rights for one group does not infringe upon another. Gwyneth has also incorporated the insights from her REWA classes into her work for external organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Women for Afghan Women; and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

“REWA did not just guide me into academic spaces around human rights and religion, but it opened doors for me into real-world efforts.”

Inaugural Human Rights Summit

Gwyneth partnered with Melissa Deng (SFS’23) in July 2022 to start Hoyas for Human Rights with the hopes that they could “re-invigorate discussion on human rights issues at the university and uplift the social justice work already being done by other organizations.” Hoyas for Human Rights is now an official club within the Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching & Service, with hundreds of members and 15 issue areas for advocacy.

Gwyneth and the other student leaders collaborated with 24 partner organizations to hold 18 events throughout the day for their inaugural Human Rights Summit.

“Our goal was to represent as many human rights issues as possible and to integrate the events into the parts of campus that students already are,” noted Gwyneth. “We wanted to ensure that we weren't just reaching the people who already care and are informed on the issues.”

Events included the human rights book display and Iraq Invasion artist talk at Lauinger Library, human rights meditation in the John Main Center for Meditation and Interreligious Dialogue, and human rights career office hours at the Cawley Career Education Center.

The organizers hope that the summit becomes an annual feature of Georgetown University. Gwyneth emphasized the importance of partner organizations like the Berkley Center for helping students engage meaningfully in human rights work and scholarship at Georgetown.

“Moving forward, there will be room for lots more conversations, including possible interfaith dialogues or speakers to bring about a richer discussion on religion and human rights in the many summits to come long after my time.”

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