Hope for Democracy Brings Human Rights Activists to Scientology’s Ybor Square Tampa on International Human Rights Day

TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 17, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The 50 or so schoolchildren, attired in vivid blue t-shirts, jostled next to wrought-iron stairs at an historic – indeed fabled – cigar factory in the heart of Tampa’s Ybor City. The kids weren’t there for fun, but they certainly were enjoying themselves, as part of 200-strong contingent celebrating human rights.

“We live in a relatively peaceful world surrounded by problems like whether our iPhones have good service and if someone liked our Facebook post or not,” Daniel Alvarez Sr., president of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Hispanic Advisory Council, told the crowd from the top of the steps.

“Could you imagine a world where you speak out against a government, and for the mere crime of expressing your thoughts, you are ripped from your family never to be heard from again?” Alvarez continued. “Could you imagine praying to the wrong god and having to face an angry majority that doesn’t agree with your theology? The truth is that we are never more than one complacent generation away from such a reality. A reality that unfortunately exists today for millions of people throughout the world.”

The students already knew that message about liberties, and they want everyone in the world to hear it. They are volunteers with “Youth for Human Rights” emblazoned on their t-shirts. Along with United for Human Rights, the Church of Scientology-sponsored groups advocate on spreading the word about United Nations’ Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

December 10 was the 67th Anniversary of the U.N. proclaiming to the world that all people are entitled to rights. No government gives people human rights – every person begins life with the rights enumerated in the U.N.’s Declaration.

The location for the event, Ybor Square, is one of those rare venues that have been hallowed by the struggle for human rights. On those iron steps in 1893, the patriarch of Cuban independence, Jose Marti, rallied his countrymen to fight for an end to Spanish rule in the island nation. Ybor Square, built in 1886 by Vincente Martinez-Ybor, was purchased and completely restored by the Church of Scientology in 2010.

Following a luncheon and speakers inside the Church, the students led the gathering on a Human Rights Walk to the nearby José Martí Park.

The purpose of United for Human Rights is to educate and enlighten young people and adults as to what human rights are and why they are the cornerstones of a free society according to the group’s president, Gracia Bennish.

Kicking off the event and receiving an award for being a voice of human rights throughout his career – including six years in the Florida House and Senate as well as a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Congress – was Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

“The right to democracy is also part of the international law of the Americas. The foundational document of the Inter-American system, the Charter of the Organization of American States … states that ‘The solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy.’ We must never stop working until that right becomes a reality,” Diaz-Balart said.

Additional speakers at the event included Guillermo Toledo whose father was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment for fighting against Castro’s government. Toledo left Cuba at 15, now has a successful legal practice and was the coordinator for the first National Cuban Summit in Puerto Rico in August of this year.

Toledo told the crowd gathered for the event that “democracy doesn´t exist in a country where human rights are not respected, where only one political party exists, where there are not elections or elections are fraudulent, where there are not division of powers or where people do not elect directly to their leaders or where people do not have participation on government decisions.”

Also speaking was the Rev. Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a Baptist minister, human rights defender and Cuban Coordinator for the newly formed Cubanos Unidos de Puerto Rico.

Lleonart Barroso led the crowd in prayer stating, “Let´s postulate in the Name of God, Creator of all Men, that one day not far away, the blows of terror, oppression and suppression, violent antagonism, apathy, insanity or irrationality, totalitarianism and hate of a troubled world will be gone forever and every single place will be illuminated by the divine glow of freedom and democracy for everybody.”

To learn more about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights visit http://www.humanrights.com/#/home.

United for Human Rights (UHR)

Given the immense scope of the problem, and inspired by the words of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, “Human Rights must be made a fact not an idealistic dream,” The Church of Scientology supports United for Human Rights as a vanguard of human rights education and information. It is the world's largest nongovernmental human rights education campaign, active in 192 countries and partnering with 1,500 groups and organizations. Its purpose: To raise awareness and implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its 30 articles.

Media Contact: Gracia Bennish United for Human Rights 727-942-4668 gracia1@tampabay.rr.com http://www.humanrights.com/#/home

Source:Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization