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Student Reflections on the Asian Perspectives on Human Dignity Conference

The Asian Perspectives on Human Dignity Conference was a unique conference hosted by the Religious Freedom and Human Dignity (RFHD) Initiative here at Brigham Young University–Hawaii in collaboration with the International Center of Law and Religion at Brigham Young University Law School.

The conference was held in honor of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). For two days, a group of scholars converged at BYU–Hawaii to engage in diverse dialogue about human dignity, drawing on global perspectives from human dignity scholars representing various Asian countries.

Over ten people gathered outside on the staircase leading to the Heber J. Grant Building on the BYUH campus.
Photo by Camille Jovenes

Representatives from China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Bangladesh, and more gathered to participate in various presentations and discussions about the multifaceted concept of human dignity. Conference attendees aspired to foster the exchange of ideas and insights, allowing participants to widen their perspectives and apply them in their respective nations.

Students, staff, and nearby community members were invited to attend the event to gain more exposure to the unique perspectives and discussions. Student fellows from the RFHD Initiative had an even closer look at the planning and logistics of the conference. Lead student fellow Fahina Lauti, a political science major from Oakland, California, was one student heavily involved in organizing the conference.

Woman speaking into a microphone as she sits at a table as part of a panel discussion.
Photo by Camille Jovenes

Of the experience, she shared, "I have learned that [people] are more similar than different. No matter where you come from, everyone has human dignity. No matter where you come from, we all have issues. But there are solutions!" She continued to explain that combining knowledge from your culture and environment with new perspectives from others allows all parties involved to create or find new solutions to those issues.

Lauti was just one of many students who valued the conference and walked away with more insight into how she could positively influence the world. She added, "I have learned that human dignity is discussed everywhere in the world. It is an important issue to many, regardless of ethnicity, culture, nationality, or religion."

Lauti also shared that one of her highlights of the event was working with student volunteers sharing, "I have talked to many of the delegates, and they have told me that the students here at BYU–Hawaii are compassionate, hospitable, and thoughtful. Many were impressed by our students, and I am very proud of that!"

Crystal Tania, a senior from Indonesia, was a volunteer who helped as a student interpreter for Indonesian and Malay languages. Majoring in communications, media, and culture, Tania said, "Attending this conference has broadened my perspective on a subject I had little knowledge of beforehand...[but] even with each country's different names, concepts, and practices, they are all working towards one goal, which is promoting human dignity and religious freedom."

Three individuals standing together, smiling at the camera.
Photo by Camille Jovenes

Tania also shared her appreciation for the conference agenda and the opportunities it provided students. She further explained, "Through this conference, I improved my networking skills and met influential people from not just Asian countries but also European countries and states across the U.S." She added, "Despite the scholars' high statuses and deep knowledge on this subject, they were very down-to-earth and showed genuine interest in our studies and personal experiences as students at BYU–Hawaii."

Overall, the conference impacted those in attendance as it helped answer the question, "How can we improve respect for human dignity as a universal human value?" Conference presentations are scheduled to be compiled into a book. When available, this monumental work will have the potential to aid nations striving to improve human dignity and religious freedom on a global scale.

The RFHD student committee —composed of BYU–Hawaii student fellows—strives to fulfill the initiative's mission to foster the spread of religious liberty and protection of human dignity by educating students, alumni, and volunteers through events, conferences, and research.