Human rights is in-built into all cultures, all traditions, says BRICS ambassador

BRICS Sherpa, Ambassador Anil Sooklal. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency (ANA)

BRICS Sherpa, Ambassador Anil Sooklal. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 13, 2023


BRICS Sherpa, ambassador Anil Sooklal, said religion exposed the flaws and injustices of apartheid

Durban - An event was held in Durban to honour the country’s BRICS Sherpa, ambassador Anil Sooklal, for the assistance he provided to Naledi Pandor, Minister of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. during the recent 15th BRICS summit in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Sooklal was praised for the work leading up to the summit, which included foreign minister and Sherpa meetings.

The success of the summit was highlighted by the substantial outcomes and there has been all-round praise for the these, as adopted by the heads of state in the Johannesburg II Declaration.

The summit has also been praised for the successful outcomes of the BRICS Africa and BRICS Plus developments and the way some 60 countries, including heads of state and the secretary-general of the UN, António Guterres, were received – the largest gathering of Global South leaders.

Speaking at the event on Sunday, Sooklal, who contributed to the book “Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Spirituality: Perspectives from the Dharmic and Indigenous Cultures”, said the launch and his involvement of the South African chapter of the World Council on Religion and Peace in the 1980s at Unisa as a front for religion to have a united front for the Struggle against apartheid was a life-changing moment for him.

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Reverend Alan Boesak played an important role in launching this,” he said. “I was chosen as secretary of that organisation and this gave us a united front, as people of religion, to oppose apartheid, and most of our funding came from the World Council of Churches in Geneva.”

Sooklal said religion exposed the flaws and injustices of apartheid.

“In 1987 we all went to Lusaka, led by Archbishop Tutu, to meet the ANC in exile, and that was the first time I met people like Mac Maharaj, Steve Tshwete and several other leaders of the ANC.

“They appealed to us to become more of a galvanising force as people of faith in opposing apartheid.”

He said in 1992 he was part of those tasked with the part of the constitution-making process to develop a document on religious rights and responsibilities as part of the new South Africa.

“I was quite involved in that process and in 1993 I accepted a fellowship in human rights and I spent a bit of time in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was awarded a certificate in human rights.”

In 1994 Sooklal was offered a job at the Centre for Human Rights, but was then offered a job in government and was posted to South Africa’s Mission in Geneva.

“My life as a diplomat started with my posting again being involved with human rights in Geneva. When I returned from my posting, I was made in charge of Asia and the Middle-East. In 2001 we hosted the UN conference against racism and I was privileged to be part of that.

“This whole journey of religion and human rights was fundamental to shaping my whole character and throughout my period of diplomacy up until the present time, human rights is very much part of the portfolio.

“If you look at the recently concluded BRICS summit, one of the paragraphs we had to negotiate on was human rights.”

Sooklal said in December, the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Charter on Human Rights will be celebrated and this is an important document in terms of governing inter-governmental relationships as per human rights.

“But human rights is not something that started in 1948, it is something that is in-built into all of our cultures, it has been there since time immemorial.

“It is embedded in all of our cultures and all of our traditions,” Sooklal said.