UN Special Rapporteur advises law graduates to keep the pursuit of justice at the center of their lives 

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Dr. Nazila Ghanea assumed her mandate as UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2022. Her work has spanned the globe. (ohchr.org)

Dr. Nazila Ghanea, a professor at Oxford University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, encouraged J. Reuben Clark Law School graduates this week to focus their lives on justice. 

“Law serves the pursuit of justice,” she said at Thursday’s convocation, held at the BYU Music Building’s concert hall. “It is a calling, not only a vocation.” 

Law and justice go hand in hand, and graduates must not become jaded as they grow older, but keep justice at the center of their lives, Ghanea said. 

“In the short term we may pay a high price for justice and integrity,” Ghanea said, “but in the long term it strengthens our humanity, builds our character, and contributes to the foundation of a healthy society.”

The ends do not justify the means, and it is best to keep one’s integrity when working toward goals, Ghanea said. 

“Justice for a few at the expense of the whole proves fragile and short-lived,” Ghanea said.

Ghanea advised graduates to always be looking for truth while keeping “the spirit of service as a polar star.” 

Ghanea said that in a world with increasing polarization, othering and hatred, people must find ways to persuade, educate, and assist in order to produce real change.

“We can do better than righteous indignation and performative activism,” Ghanea said.

Ghanea said BYU law graduates should do their best to bring understanding and hope to the people they serve by trying to understand things from another’s point of view.

“Fairness can and must embrace everyone, everywhere,” she said. “We should not allow it to be weaponized.”

The dean of the law school, David Moore, congratulated the graduating students and said that his own graduation from law school was held at the old Provo Tabernacle, which has since been converted into the Provo City Center Temple.

“Aim celestial,“ Moore said, “nothing compares to graduating to exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”

Moore said with the help of Jesus Christ, graduates can transform and handle challenges along their path. He finished by quoting from the mission statement of the law school.

“Seek to be people of integrity who combine faith and intellect in lifelong service to God and neighbor.”

During the ceremony, students read poems, gave speeches and performed musical numbers.

The mandate of Special Rapporteur seeks to reduce religious intolerance by undertaking fact-finding missions, investigating complaints, and presenting reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council and General Assembly, according to the UN website.

The mandate started in 1986, and the current mandate holder strives to be “guided by service and seek the humility to be able to listen deeply, learn continuously and stand to be corrected,” Ghanea said at convocation.

Ghanea said she is grateful for the support BYU has extended to freedom of religion over the years through numerous initiatives. 

Ghanea is a professor of international human rights and director of the human rights program at the University of Oxford in England. She taught previously at the University of London and in the People’s Republic of China. She has authored numerous books and articles and mentored scores of budding scholars. She began her service as Special Rapporteur in 2022. 

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