AMHERST – Thirteen people gathered around the Merry Maple tree in downtown Amherst to read the Bill of Human Rights last Friday night – the city’s annual celebration of its adoption by the United Nations.

“I think it’s important to take a moment to realize that we all have the luxury of school and the different rights that we all have on a day-to-day basis,” said organizer Phillip Avila, co-chair of the Commission human rights. “I think it’s important that we recognize that some of us don’t [have these rights], and some countries don’t either.

The declaration contains 30 articles which cover all areas of human rights.

“Every year there is always a different article that is more poignant than the others,” said Mandi Jo Hanneke, member of the city council.

In the midst of a global pandemic, these articles and this recognition of human rights are more important than ever.

“Inequalities in health care as well as inequalities in access to food and housing are seriously threatened by COVID, and therefore in many ways, [human rights] are even more important, ”said City Council President Lynn Griesemer.

“The article on education was poignant for me,” Hanneke said.

Article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that education should aim for the full development of the human personality.

“Last year we were going through a serious time where our young children were not necessarily receiving a proper education due to a public health emergency, and that struck me,” said Hanneke.

Much of the event revolved around recognizing that American citizens have easy access to the human rights spelled out in the declaration, and we should be grateful for that because not everyone does.

According to City Manager Paul Bockelman: “When you read it, you start to think about all the rights and how many people do not have the rights set out in the declaration. Most of the people in the world don’t. We have the privilege in this country to have access to these rights, but they must be protected.

Talvin Dhingra is a student at Amherst Regional High School.