The Human Rights Network of the International Association of Methodist Scholls, Colleges, and Universities (IAMSCU) met in Stockholm, Sweden, hosted by the University College Stockholm / Enskilda Högskolan Stockholm (UCS). The event brought together scholars from different parts of the world to discuss about Human Rights in the Wesleyan tradition, the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Scandinavia, and the reality of war as well as prospects for peace and conflict resolution in Europe. The highlight of the conference were the presentations focusing on the rights of Sámi Peoples in Scandinavia.
The keynote speaker was Helga West, who is a Sámi Poet from the Deatnu River Valley near Helsinki, in Finland, and gave a presentation on the theme “No Reconciliation without Land: Somewhere between Agency, Green Colonialism and Trauma I found Deeply Rooted Distrust.” Her powerful keynote speech include images, poetry, spirituality, and geographic information to offer a historical account and current description of the the struggles face by the Sámi People in the Subarctic region now occupied by modern nations such as Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway, among other regions. Her presentation opened the eyes of participants to the situation of Indigenous Peoples in the European continent. This was complemented by another keynote speech, delivered by Kaisa Syrjänen Schaal , a lwyer from Uppsala, Sweden, who has been a leading member of the Commission on the Reconciliation between the Church of Sweden and the Sámi People in that country. In a detailed presentation with facts, statistics, and documentation, she presented on the history of abuses against the Sámi People (including land appropriation. racism, eugenics, forced boarding schools, and many other discriminatory measures). She also described the struggle for rights and reparations, which has led to an official Apology to the Sámi People and important steps towards reparations. Kaisa Syrjänen Schaal shared with participants that these processes were inspired by reconciliation processes in Argentina, South Africa, and Canada.
The event also counted on the participation of the IAMSCU President, Tom Wolfe, who encouraged participants and their institutions to promote reflections and actions that start with a recognition of our common “humanity“ and the question about what our particular cultures and upbringing has led us to reject or forget, even if inadvertently. Therefore, he encouraged IAMSCU members to continue to promote these scholarly and activist events, always starting by asking a question: “Who are we missing or who have we made invisible?” The IAMSCU Network on Human Rights was encouraged to continue its work and include more voices among its members, so the association can contribute even more to the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. IAMSCU will be promoting new initiatives on these issues.