Immersing students in the complexities of international human rights law while at the same time allowing them to soak up the bountiful pleasures of Rome, Italy, is no easy trick.
Yet it is one that appears to have been mastered by the Columbus School of Law’s three year-old International Human Rights Summer Law Program in Rome, held this year from May 17– June 7.
Open to both CUA Law students and students from other law schools, the intensive three-week program permits students to earn four credits as they study and reside for the summer in the “Eternal City.”
Rome is home to the Holy See, a major international advocate for human rights and provider of humanitarian relief throughout the world. It is also the headquarters of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, as well as other legal and humanitarian institutions of interest to those studying human rights. In addition, Rome’s historical, cultural, religious, and legal significance make it an ideal setting for a concentrated study of human rights law.
New for 2014 was an informal discussion group to explore current human rights issues from the perspective of Catholic social thought.
“The preservation of and protection of human rights and dignity is a task that lies very close to the heart of the mission of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law,” says CUA Law Professor Lucia Silecchia, who taught the Rome courses along with faculty colleagues Mary Leary and Regina Jefferson.
“It falls in a particular way to lawyers whose special training and knowledge allows them to work in and with the institutions and legal authorities that can protect, promote and clearly articulate fundamental human rights,” Silecchia continued.
Classes are held on the campus of the Pontifical Lateran University, a central location that affords easy proximity to many area destinations that supplement classroom time.
This summer, the Rome students were the guests of the Italian Senate, visited the headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (2), the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See (4) and the Court of Cassation.
In addition, they attended a Papal audience (9) visited St. Peter’s Basilica (3) and the Lateran Basilica (top), and visited the Quirinale Palace (11), the Italian President’s home, on Italy’s major national holiday, Festa della Reppublica. The group also took a day trip to Assisi (7).
The charms of Rome make it a wonderful place to study international human rights law, but they do not blind students to its fundamental importance.
“Sadly, there is no shortage of examples of the violation of human rights and disrespect for human dignity, particularly with respect to those who are the most vulnerable,” says Silecchia. “Fortunately, there are many who are willing to dedicate their professional careers, talents and energy to the preservation of and protection of human rights and dignity in our fragile world.”
Many students choose to remain in Rome after completing the human rights program. Some land short-term employment before returning home for the fall semester.