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DON BOSCOS EDUCATIVE METHOD (PREVENTIVE SYSTEM)


AND THE TENETS OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF
HUMAN RIGHTS
- Jose Kuttianimattathil, sdb

Contents
1. The Preventive System the Pedagogy of the Future
2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) A Significant Milestone in an
On-Going Journey
3. UDHR and the Preventive System
4. Don Bosco and the Rights of Workers
5. UDHR and the Preventive System Mutual Enrichment and Support
5.1 Support and Enrichment that the Preventive System can Offer to the UDHR
5.2 Support and Enrichment that the UDHR can Give to the Preventive System
6. The Need for a paradigm Shift for the Promotion of Human Rights
7. Its Name is Yesterday
8. Conclusion

UDHR 262 states that education shall be directed to the full development of the
human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms. In this paper we shall explore the relationship between UDHR and Don
Boscos Educational Method, popularly known as the Preventive System, and its
suitability and credibility for promoting human rights.
1. The Preventive System the Pedagogy of the Future
Abb Pierre (1912-2007), was a French Catholic Priest who founded the Emmaus
Movement in 1949 to help poor and homeless people and refugees. For almost twenty
consecutive years he was voted the most popular person in France. He has come to India
at the invitation of Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan to deal with the issues of
refugees. Fr. Duvallet was for twenty years a collaborator of Abb Pierre in the work of
re-education of delinquent youth. He makes a significant appeal to the Salesians: You
have works, colleges and oratories for young people, but your real treasure is one and
only: the pedagogy of Don Bosco. In a world in which youngsters are betrayed, drained,
ground down and exploited, the Lord has entrusted to you a pedagogy in which the
paramount aspect is respect for the boy, for his greatness and frailty, for his dignity as a
son of God.
Preserve it, renew it, rejuvenate it, enrich it with all modern discoveries; adapt it
to all the developments of the twentieth century and their ramifications that Don Bosco
could not be aware of. But I beg you to keep it safe! Change everything, let your houses
go if necessary, but keep this treasure and build up in thousands of hearts this way of
loving and saving the souls of boys which you have inherited from Don Bosco.1

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A French Pedagogue, Guy Avanzini, says that the pedagogy of the 21st Century
will be either Salesian or not at all.2
Fr. Duvallet, an activist and Avanzini, a theoretician, both present the preventive
system, a system developed yesterday as the system for tomorrow, as the pedagogy of the
future. What is this system?
1.1 The Preventive System A Unique Synthesis of Don Bosco.
The Preventive System can be said to be the sum total of the convictions of Don
Bosco, based on his long experience of nearly fifty years of working with the young at
risk, which found expression in a specific style of relating, that he used for dealing
constructively and effectively with youth to make them God-oriented persons and
responsible citizens. Although at the request of different people he wrote short texts
explaining his system at various times, the tenets of the system are contained in his 47
year experience of working with young at risk rather than in any one text.
The main elements of this system are reason, religion, loving-kindness, familiarity
as in a family, trust, joy, accompaniment (assistance), prevention, respect for the
individual, lack of corporal punishments.
A word of explanation of each of these elements is needed to see what exactly
Don Bosco meant by them.
Reason: By reason Don Bosco meant at least four things: i) Arthur Lenti, a
specialist on Don Bosco says that reason may be defined as justice, in the sense that the
educator, as well as the youngster, is subject to the rule rights and obligations must be
constantly respected and lived up to by everybody;3 ii) Reasonableness, that is
everything that is asked of the young must be proportionate to their age and possible for
them, especially with regard to work assignment and discipline; iii) Rationality, that is
the reason for the decisions and demands as well as the good that is expected to result
from them must be made evident to the young; and iv) Motivation, that is motivation
should be created in the young to follow the educational programme that is proposed to
them and their cooperation and participation in it must be elicited.
Religion: Don Bosco based his educational method on the Catholic faith tradition
and believed that faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to the Church were needed not
only for spiritual growth but also for ones human, psychological, and intellectual
growth. He also placed lot of importance on religious practices.
However, once
(February 1878) he explained his educational method to Minister of the Interior
Francesco Crispi, without making any reference to religion. The reason for this might
be sought in the political situation, or even in Don Boscos conviction that young
people at risk could be helped by the method of reason and loving-kindness, even without
reference to religion.4
Loving-Kindness: Don Bosco used to adivse the directors of Salesian institutions:
Try to make yourself loved rather than feared5 The love that he had in mind was a
spiritually mature, impartial, generous, selfless and self-sacrificing love. In the Letter
from Rome (1884) he mentions love 27 times (The letter has 3,693 words). The
youngsters must be made to feel that they are loved. He says: The youngsters should
not only be loved, but they themselves should know that they are loved.6
Familiarity as in a Family: Familiarity for Don Bosco meant family-style
relationships and a home-like way of living and working together. Its result is the family

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spirit.7 Don Bosco, except in official documents, preferred to refer to his institutions as
house, this house, the house of the oratory, etc. He wanted his institutions to be like a
home and the people living and working/studying there to relate to one another as
members of a family: Every youngster who comes to a house of ours should regard his
companions as brothers, and his superiors as those who take the place of his parents.8
To speak of the educator-pupil relationship in terms of father-son relationship was
quite common. While there was affection in this relationship, this traditional relationship
was characterized by aloofness and severity on the part of the educator and awe and
respectful distance on the part of the pupil. Don Bosco wanted the educational
relationship to have all the characteristics of the various relationships (father-child,
mother-child, brother/sister-brother/sister) in a family. Thus he wanted the educator to
have the qualities of a father (demanding), mother (tender-loving care) and brother/sister
(equality, friendship).9 At the Oratory, for a long time, there were also mother figures
like Mamma Margaret, Marianna Occhiena, Mrs. Rua, Mrs. Gastaldi, Mrs. Bellia, and
others.
Trust: Don Bosco maintained that it is not possible to educate youngsters if they
have no trust in their superiors.10 Only if the pupils trust the educator will they open
themselves to him/her. Trust is gained by eliminating whatever alienates the pupils from
the educator. The educator can do this by going to the pupils first, adapting to their tastes
and becoming one like them.
Joy: One of the secrets of the good running of the oratory mentioned by Don
Bosco was: happiness, singing, music and great freedom in amusements.11 Don
Caviglia, an authority on Don Bosco says, Don Bosco was able to see the part of joy in
formation and in the life of sanctity, and wanted that gaiety and good humour should
reign among his people. Servite Domino in laetitia (Serve the Lord in joy) could be
called the 11th commandment in Don Boscos house.12
Assistance (Accompaniment): Assistance has two meanings in the writings of Don
Bosco: i) meeting all the real needs of young people like food, clothing, shelter and
lodging, a job, education, good use of free time; and ii) educators vigilance and
presence to the young. So assistance is presence and availability of the educator to
the young person for everything that was needed, in any particular educational situation.
Obviously this includes supervision when needed, especially in a boarding school
setting.13 Don Bosco placed great emphasis on the presence of the educator with the
pupils especially during recreation.14
Prevention: Don Bosco said that his educational system, places the pupils in the
impossibility of committing faults.15 Prevention has two functions: i) positively, it offers
support to the young person to grow by offering a healthy atmosphere; ii) defensively, it
protects the young from falling into situations of risk. Preventive activity to be
educational must include: 1) foreseeing the youngsters psychological moment; 2)
allowing calculated and responsible risks; and 3) trust in youthful idealism and sense of
responsibility.16 When practiced in this way prevention will offer the young person
adequate opportunity to make free decisions while at the same time protecting them from
damaging experiences, which especially at their age of psychological development, can
become insurmountable obstacles for their growth.
For some the word preventive might have a negative connotation. To
understand and appreciate its sense as used by Don Bosco, one should perhaps think of

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the way the word is used currently in the phrase preventive medicine. Don Boscos
method of education was preventive in so far as he sought to create a healthy
environment within which the personalities of his boys could unfold and develop. He
tried to ensure by prudent foresight that they were not exposed to moral dangers which
they were still too immature to face. Like a good doctor he believed not in trying to
patch up remedies when things had gone wrong, but in seeking to ensure physical and
moral well-being by a positively healthy environment.17
It is doubtful whether Don Bosco used the term preventive system for his
educational method before 1877. Most probably he adopted this term in order to locate
his method within the general classification of educational systems in his day and thus
give it a scientific temper.18
Respect for the individual: Don Bosco held that humans are created in the image
and likeness of God.19 Because of this among all material beings humans alone
intelligence and will and thus the capacity to love one another and to relate to God.
Therefore they have a dignity and worth which other material things do not have. This is
to be manifested in the way we deal with the young: Let us treat young people as we
would treat Jesus if he were a pupil in one of our schools. Let us treat them with love,
and they will love us in return. Let us treat them with respect, and they will respect us in
return. They themselves must come to acknowledge us as the educators-in-charge.20
Punishments: Don Bosco was of the opinion that young people make mistakes not
out of malice but due to lack of guidance and thoughtlessness. If punishments are
inflicted harshly they do not forget them easily and seek to take revenge. Therefore, if
possible, it is better not to have recourse to punishments. But if punishment becomes
inevitable they should be done privately, with love, prudence and patience. However,
certain punishments like striking someone, pulling someones ears, making someone
kneel and other such punishments are to be avoided absolutely.21
In his short work entitled The Preventive System in the Education of the
Young, Don Bosco says that there are two systems which have been in use through all
ages in the education of youth: the preventive and the repressive.22 So the preventive
system is not totally a creation of Don Bosco. Many of the elements that he considered
as integral to his system were already mentioned by others.23 What is perhaps specific to
Don Bosco is the genial way in which he combined various elements to give the already
existing rudimentary system a new physiognomy.
2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights A Significant Milestone in an Ongoing Journey.
2.1 What are Human Rights
In general human rights may be considered as Aclaims that persons have on
society simply on the basis of their being human.@24 According to Leonard Swidler, AA
human right is a claim to be able and allowed to perform an action because one is a
human being B not because one is a citizen, or is permitted in law, or has a grant from the
king or the pope, or for any other reason.@25 They may also be described as the
universal, inviolable and inalienable ways of acting or of being treated that are beneficial
to the human being and are due to him/her as a rational being endowed with free will.

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Human rights are inherent in the very nature of the human being and one cannot
live meaningfully without them. In earlier times they were called natural rights
indicating that they are derived from the nature of the human being and exist for the
welfare of the individual. They differ from civil rights which are derived from society or
the State and exist for a social or civil purpose.
The implication and force of the idea of human rights is that no institution created
by humans can, with legitimacy, fail to recognize and respect those rights. This is
because they proceeds from the nature of the individual, and not from the state. Thus, the
right to life is so sacred and necessary for an individual that a state may not rightfully kill
an innocent person.
In specifically Christian terms human rights can be described as the things to
which human beings are entitled in justice because they are created in the divine image
and likeness and called to live in community and to eternal life with God
2.2 History of Human Rights
All great civilizations have been concerned with human rights in their own way.
In countries like India and China, a human being had rights in so far as he or she
occupied a certain position in society like father, mother, son, daughter, teacher or priest.
The idea of human rights based on the intrinsic value of the individual and not on his/her
relations with others developed primarily in the West.
Aristotle, in his works, makes a brief reference to natural rights and treated them
under political rights among fellow citizens.26 The Stoics held that all humans are
rational beings and are equal in their fundamental nature. However, they thought of
humanity as hierarchically structured with slaves at the bottom followed by children,
women and male adults on top. While children and women were accorded limited rights
slaves had no rights at all.
The Romans developed civil laws which they held were applicable not only to a
particular nation but to all peoples. Thus laws provided a basis for claiming a right
simply on the grounds of one=s humanity that is common to all. However, this was
applied in practice only to the higher classes of society.
The struggle for the understanding of human rights as we have them today began
in the middle ages. The Magna Carta (1215) of England marks an important step in the
development of human rights. It guaranteed some rights to barons and citizens in return
for their obedience to the Crown. The English Bill of Rights (1689), affirmed that the
parliament is to be elected by the people and is to enjoy complete freedom of speech
unhindered by Court or Crown. Influenced by John Locke the American Declaration of
Independence of 1776 contains the key phrases, AAll men are created equal ... with
certain inalienable rights ... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.@
Thirteen years later, during the French Revolution, on 26 August 1789 the French
National Assembly promulgated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. It
affirmed that humans are born free, are equal and have inalienable rights like the right to
liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. The rights proclaimed in this
Declaration have become part of the Constitution of almost all countries. It swept away
monarchy and nobility which had dominated the life of France but also claimed freedom
from all restrictions imposed on people in the name of religion. The underlying premise
was that human life is free, guided only by the light of reason. On 10 November 1793,

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Reason=s effigy was enthroned in the Notre Dame Cathedral. From then on humans
were to be the only architects of their life and world guided by Afraternity, equality and
liberty.@ Precisely because of its lack of religious depth it failed to promote human
dignity. The revolutionaries violated human rights mercilessly so that the saying that a
Arevolution eats up its children@ became a reality.
With the acceptance by the General Assembly of the UN of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, human rights became
internationally recognized and protected. The Universal Declaration arose from the
experiences of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights
to which all human beings are entitled.
While the UDHR is a significant milestone on the journey of human rights, the
journey did not end with the UDHR for it neither included all the rights nor foresaw all
the situations. The stress of the Universal Declaration was on individual rights. Hence
we have had other declarations complementing it. Thus there is the Declaration of the
Rights of the Child (1959), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (1966), the Convention on the rights of the Child (1990), just mention a few.

3. UDHR and the Preventive System


As the struggle to recognize and protect human rights has been centuries old, and
as rights began to be affirmed and protected even before the time of Don Bosco, he was
aware of many of the rights. Besides, the Catholic religion to which he belonged
promoted many of these rights as belonging to a person as a child of God. Therefore in
the preventive system that he proposed we find already present either explicitly or
implicitly many of the rights which would be proclaimed in the UDHR, sixty years after
this death.
As was pointed out earlier, the preventive system is not only what he elaborated
in the short text that he wrote on it, but the sum total of his convictions gained over many
years of experience of working with youth which found expression in a particular way of
relating. And it is the totality of his experiences (rather than a single text) that we have
taken into consideration in looking at the Preventive System in the context of the UDHR
(see the table below).
What is presented in the table below is not a comparison of the UDHR and the
preventive system. The table given below is a visual depiction that attempts to show that
many of the concerns (e.g., hunger, illiteracy unemployment, cruelty), and principles
(e.g., freedom, equality) underlying the UDHR were also close to the heart of Don Bosco
although he neither promoted them for everyone nor defended them vigorously as
inalienable rights. We cannot really compare the UDHR and the Preventive system
because for a comparison to be meaningful the terms of comparison should be of the
same nature, which is not the case here. The UDHR is a well thought out and synthetic
declaration made by a body of experts. The preventive system, on the other hand, is an
unsystematic gamut of convictions and experiences of a single person, undoubtedly a
genius. The UDHR was made 71 years after Don Bosco wrote his short text on the
Preventive System (1877), and so the UDHR had so many more years of reflection of
many brilliant minds to base itself on. The UDHR is a declaration that has a universal

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sweep. It has a breadth that the preventive system does not have. The immediate context
of the UDHR was the unimaginable atrocities of the two world wars and the cumulative
injustices of the colonial system. The background of the preventive system was the
personal deprivations Don Bosco experienced, the Napoleonic wars and the problems
caused by the transition from an agrarian to urban economy. The UDHR was meant to be
a text that defends fundamental rights and to be applicable to all. The preventive system,
a pedagogical method (tool for education) to be used by persons of good will. To hold
that what the UDHR says is what Don Bosco said or what Don Bosco said is what the
UDHR says would be too reductionistic. It would also be anachronistic to maintain that
in 1877 Don Bosco said all that would be declared in 1948. We do not also expect Don
Bosco to have made statements on all things that would find a mention in the UDHR as
he was not concerned with many of those issues (e.g. the right to change ones country).
Both the texts are short: The Preventive System (2466 words, including a note in the
original by Don Bosco) and the UDHR (1759 words including the title).
Don Bosco did not think and speak in terms of human rights. He thought rather in
terms of the needs of people, what would be beneficial to them and tried to meet those
needs and provide those benefits. He thought in terms of Christian charity and what it
demanded of an individual. Living as he did in touch and in solidarity with people in
concrete situations of suffering, poverty and need, he felt urgently called to meet the need
through long-term, as well as immediate, programs. Don Bosco therefore committed his
Salesians, after his own example, to the fullest possible engagement in the work of
charity and in apostolic activity. it was charity nonetheless. It did not really address
directly systemic problems of injustice, oppression, and the like.27 However, we find
human rights reflected in many of his convictions and ventures. What is attempted in the
table below is to show the tenets of the UDHR, which are explicitly or implicitly affirmed
by Don Bosco through his words or actions. If some of them look forced keep in mind
that we are not attempting to compare the two but rather to show that Don Bosco had
concerns similar to the ones that underlie the UDHR.
Art.

UDHR

All human beings are born free and


equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience
and should act towards one another in
a spirit of brotherhood.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights


and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration, without distinction of any
kind, such as race, colour, sex,
language, religion, political or other
opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status.

PREVENTIVE SYSTEM
When God created the soul, he
breathed on the human being and gave
it the spirit of life. This breath is
simple and spiritual, made in the image
and likeness of God, who is eternal and
immortal God gave our soul
freedom.28 The preventive system is
based entirely on reason and religion,
and above all on kindness29
The love of the Lord has no
boundaries, and does not exclude
anyone, whatever his age, condition or
religion. Among our young, we
have had and we still have, those who
are Jews.30

Furthermore, no distinction shall be


made on the basis of the political, That you are young is enough to make
jurisdictional or international status of me love you very much31
the country or territory to which a
person belongs, whether it be
independent, trust, non-self-governing
or under any other limitation of
sovereignty
Concentrate your efforts on the
Everyone has the right to life, liberty spiritual, physical, and intellectual
and security of person.
well-being of the boys entrusted to you
by Divine Providence.32
The repressive system may stop a
disorder, but can hardly make the
offenders better. Experience teaches
that the young do not easily forget the
punishments they have received, and
for the most part foster bitter feelings,
No one shall be held in slavery or
along with the desire to throw off the
servitude; slavery and the slave trade
yoke and even to seek revenge In the
shall be prohibited in all their forms.
preventive system, on the contrary, the
pupil becomes a friend, and the
assistant (teacher), a benefactor who
advises him, has his good at heart, and
wishes to spare him vexation,
punishment, and perhaps dishonour.33
The preventive system excludes all
No one shall be subjected to torture
violent punishment, and tries to do
or to cruel, inhuman or degrading
without
even
the
slightest
treatment or punishment.
chastisement.34
Everyone has the right to recognition
everywhere as a person before the
law.
All are equal before the law and are
entitled without any discrimination to
equal protection of the law. All are public matters demand public
entitled to equal protection against any legalities, so that no party is at a
discrimination in violation of the disadvantage before the law,35
Declaration
and
against
any
incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective
remedy by the competent national
tribunals for acts violating the
fundamental rights granted him by the
constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary

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Art.

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arrest, detention or exile.


Everyone is entitled in full equality
to a fair and public hearing by an
Hear both sides before making up
independent and impartial tribunal, in
your mind regarding reports and
the determination of his rights and
matters in dispute36
obligations and of any criminal charge
against him.

UDHR
1. Everyone charged with a
penal offense has the right to
be presumed innocent until
proved guilty
2. No one shall be held guilty of
any penal offense on account
of any act or omission which
did not constitute a penal
offense, under national or
international law, at the time it
was committed.

12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary


interference with his privacy, family,
home or correspondence, not to
attacks upon his honor and reputation.
Everyone has the right to the
protection of the law against such
interference or attacks.

13

1. Everyone has the right to


freedom of movement and
residence within the borders of
each state.
2. Everyone has the right to
leave any country, including
his own, and to return to his
country.

PREVENTIVE SYSTEM

Hence I recommend all our Rectors


that they should be the first to practice
fatherly correction in respect of our
dear young sons, and this correction be
done in private, Never directly
rebuke anyone in public, except to
prevent scandal, or to make it good
when it has already occurred.37 If
anyone then should remain deaf to all
these wise means of amendment, and
should prove to be a bad example, or
scandalous, then he should be sent
away without hope of returning, with
the provision however, that as far as it
is possible his good name should be
protected.38

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14

15

16
17

18

19

20

Art.
21
22
23

1. Everyone has the right to seek


and to enjoy in other countries
asylum from persecution.
2. This right may not be invoked

1. Everyone has the right to a


nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily
deprived of his nationality
1. Men and women of full age, ,
have the right to marry and to found a
family
1. Everyone has the right to own
property
Everyone has the right to freedom of
thought, conscience and religion; this
right includes freedom to change his
religion or belief, and freedom, either
alone or in community with others and
in public or private, to manifest his
religion or belief in teaching, practice,
worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of
opinion and expression: this right
includes freedom to hold opinions
without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and
ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.
1. Everyone has the right to
freedom of peaceful assembly
and association.
2. No one may be compelled to
belong to an association.

Students should be allowed to express


their thoughts freely, but take care to
straighten out, and even correct,
expressions, words, actions that might
not be consonant with Christian
education.39
Don Bosco from his young age gave
importance to associations.
He
started the Society of Joy in 1832,
then religious associations or sodalities
(St. Aloysius, the immaculate, the Most
Holy Sacrament, St. Joseph), the
Mutual Help Society.40

UDHR
PREVENTIVE SYSTEM
1. Everyone has the right to take part
in the government of the country
Everyone, as a member of society,
has the right to social security
1. Everyone has the right to As a rule the Oratory boys (1842)
work, to free choice of included stonecutters, bricklayers,
employment, to just and stuccoers, road pavers, plasterers, and

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favorable conditions of work
and to protection against
unemployment.
2. Everyone,
without
any
discrimination, has the right to
equal pay for equal work.
3. Everyone who works has the
right to just and favorable
remuneration ensuring for
himself and his family an
existence worthy of human
dignity, and supplemented, if
necessary, by other means of
social protection.
4. Everyone has the right to
form and to join trade unions
for the protection of his
interests.

24

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others who came from distant


villages.During the week I would go
to visit them at their work in factories
or workshops. Not only the youngsters
were happy to see a friend taking care
of them; their employers were pleased,
gladly retaining youngsters who were
helped during the week,41
I was beginning to learn from
experience that if young lads just
released from their place of punishment
could find someone to befriend them, to
look after them, to assist them on feast
days, to help them get work with
good employers, to visit them
occasionally during the week, these
young men soon forgot the past and
began to mend their ways.42
- Don Bosco started the Mutual Aid
Society, in 1850, the first of its kind
for young working boys in Turin.
- Don Bosco made Work Contract for
boys working in shops, factories, etc.,
ensuring just wages, adequate working
conditions, rest, etc., for the boys.
- Don Bosco started his own workshops
from 1853.
Let the boys have full liberty to jump,
run and make as much noise as they
Everyone has the right to rest and
please. Let care be taken however
leisure,
including
reasonable
that the games, the persons playing
limitation of working hours and
them as well as the conversation are not
periodic holidays with pay.
reprehensible.43
1. Everyone has the right to a
standard of living adequate for
the health and well-being of
himself and of his family,
including
food,
clothing,
housing and medical care and
necessary social services, and
the right to security in the
event
of
unemployment,
sickness,
disability,
widowhood, old age or other
lack
of
livelihood
in

Many boys from Turin and the


surrounding country were perfectly
prepared to lead un upright, hardworking existence, but, when urged to
do so, they often replied that they had
no food, no clothing and no place
where
they
could
stay
even
temporarily Realising that all efforts
would be wasted on some children
unless one provided shelter for them, I
hastily began to rent room after room in
boarding houses, often at exorbitant

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26

27

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circumstances beyond his prices.44


control
2. Motherhood and childhood
are entitled to special care and
assistance.
At St Francis of Assisi (1841-44), I
was already conscious of the need for
some kind of school. Some children
who are already advanced in years are
1. Everyone has the right to still completely ignorant of the truths of
education. Education shall be the faith. At the Refuge and later at
free, at least in the elementary the Moretta house, we started a regular
and fundamental stages Sunday school (besides catechism,
Technical and professional children were taught to read, write, and
education shall be made work with numbers), and when we
generally available
came to Valdocco we also started a
2. Education shall be directed to regular night school. 45
the fully development of the These boys must be given free
human personality and to the education. Some need to be given free
strengthening of respect for scholastic materials like books, paper
human rights and fundamental and pens, while others also need food
and clothing. These private efforts
freedoms.
3. Parents have a prior right to cannot continue without some sort of
choose the kind of education special subsidy.46
that shall be given to their The goal of Salesian education is to
children.
make the pupils good Christians and
honest citizens.47
- Don Bosco was the first to start an
evening school in Turin (1844).
1. Everyone has the right freely
to participate in the cultural
life of the community, to enjoy
the arts and to share in Gymnastics, music, theatricals and
scientific advancement and its outings are most efficacious means of
benefits.
obtaining discipline and of benefiting
2. Everyone has the right to the spiritual and bodily health.48
protection of the moral and An Oratory without music is a body
material interests resulting without a soul.49
from any production of
which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and
international order in which the rights
and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration can be fully realized.

13

29

30

1. Everyone has duties to the


community in which alone the
free and full development of
his personality is possible.
2.
3.
Nothing in this Declaration may be
interpreted as implying for any State,
group or person any right to engage in
any activity or to perform any act
aimed at the destruction of any of the
rights and freedoms set forth herein.

We shall not go over each article of the UDHR here. We shall take a look at the
general introductory principles (articles 1 & 2) and article 4 to indicate the way in which
we may explore and bring to light the connection between UDHR and the Preventive
System, becoming aware at the same time that many of the rights are present either
explicitly or implicitly in the elements of the preventive system.
Art 1 of the UDHR does not state any right. It states a fact, a conviction or the
basic inspiration, on which all the rights are based. It states that human beings are born
free, are equal in dignity and rights and that they are endowed with reason and conscience
and are capable of acting towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Don Bosco would be perfectly in agreement with this. He holds that humans are
created in the image of God. What is implied by this is that all humans are equal as
creatures of God and that all have equal dignity as images of God (= as persons).
According to him, the preventive system is based on reason, religion and loving kindness,
the three characteristics of human beings affirmed by UDHR art 1. The UDHR does not
mention religion explicitly in art. 1. But it mentions conscience, which in the religious
terminology familiar to Don Bosco would be the voice of God.
Art 2 of UDHR declares that all human beings, without any exception, are bearers
of all the rights. It denounces all forms of discrimination. It is universal and all
inclusive. Don Bosco manifests the same mentality when he states that it is enough that
one is young for him to love that person. It does not matte whether one is rich or poor,
black or white, a saint or a sinner. All have a claim on his love. In a letter that Don
Bosco wrote in reply to a Jewish gentleman, who notified him that perhaps he was
mistakenly registered in Don Boscos Association of Cooperators, Don Bosco says: It is
really exceptional that a Catholic priest proposes a charitable association to a Jew. But
the Lords love extends to all, irrespective of age, condition and creed. Following the
Lords example, Don Bosco also accepted everyone. In his oratory there were also
people of other religions, namely Jews.50
Art 4 of the UDHR speaks of the abolition of slavery. When slavery is abolished
the master-slave divide is overcome and all deal with each other as equals. This is also
the mindset of Don Bosco. There should be no teacher-student, superior-inferior, masterslave divide. Such divisions and barriers are to be overcome. All are equal as friends.

14
The teacher who his seen only in the classroom is a teacher and nothing more; but if he
joins in the pupils recreation he becomes their brother.51
It would not be needed here to go over each article to see how the tenets of the
UDHR are reflected in the words and actions of Don Bosco. We have an indication of
that in the table given above.
The table we have presented above makes us draw the following conclusions:
1) The basic inspiration of the UDHR as enunciated in art 1 and the basic
inspiration of the Preventive System is the same.
2) The Preventive System embodies (contains within itself) many of the
rights declared in the UDHR.
3) The Preventive System is open to all the rights proclaimed in the UDHR.
4) Don Bosco did not speak of rights because this legal category did not exist
in his days. But his words and actions upheld many elements which today
are defined in terms of human rights.
5) UDHR has as its target the whole world. Don Bosco had as his target the
youth he and his collaborators worked with, desiring at the same time the
possibility of a more universal outreach.
6) Don Bosco more through intuition and experience rather than by
theoretical reflection created a system of education that embodied and
promoted certain basic rights which would be proclaimed as human rights
much later by the UDHR. He saw them more as needs of people rather
than as inalienable rights. He was by no means the first to pay attention to
these needs/rights.
7) The UDHR aims at the transformation of society, that is, the creation of a
just and peaceful society. The preventive system aims at the same type of
society and sees education (academic, technical and vocational) as one of
the principal means of achieving that aim.
4. Don Bosco and the Rights of Workers
We have been saying that the preventive system is an articulation of the lived
experience of Don Bosco. Many of the activities which he undertook promoted basic
rights although he did not speak of them in terms of rights, e.g., providing shelter,
literacy, employment. We shall examine in brief just one of these activities, namely
caring for young workers and providing employment, to see the implications it had for
the promotion of human rights.
4.1 Evening School for Young Workers
The youngsters who came to Don Boscos wandering oratory were mostly
apprentices and young workers. Most of them were ignorant. To teach them reading,
writing, arithmetic as well as catechism, he, together with Fr. Borel, started daily evening
classes in November 1845.52 The classes were given in the evening to workers who had
labored all day in shop, yard, or field. These classes were first conducted in Don Boscos
and Borels rooms and later in some rented rooms. Within months there were about 200
students attending these classes. Don Bosco was the first to offer evening classes in
Turin. The Christian Brothers followed a few months later (1846) with a full-fledged
evening school.53

15

4.2 Job Placement and Coaching


At the beginning of his work Don Bosco had many lay people to help him with
his work of looking after the boys. Describing what they did Don Bosco says: Another
important duty of the cooperators (lay collaborators) was job placement. Many of the
young men came from distant villages; they needed food and work and someone to care
for them. Some cooperators took it on themselves to find work for them with decent and
honest employers. They made sure that the lads were neatly dressed and knew how to
apply for jobs.54
4.3 Mutual Aid Society
To help his young working boys and apprentices Don Bosco started a Mutual Aid
Society on July 1, 1850 with the name The Mutual Aid Society of the Oratory of Saint
Francis of Sales for Members of the Saint Aloysius Sodality.55 Each member paid five
cents each Sunday and after having been a member for six months was entitled to 50
cents a day if he fell sick or became unemployed. Besides coming to the aid of its
members in times of sickness and unemployment, it offered them a sense of belonging by
being a member of an association. There were other Mutual Aid Societies existing in
Turin at the time of Don Bosco for doctors and surgeons, hairdressers, master cobblers,
tailors, etc. But Don Bosco was the first to start a Mutual Aid Society for young working
boys in Turin. His pioneering efforts did not go unnoticed. In later years Mutual Aid
Societies and Workers Organizations paid him due recognition by choosing him to be
their honorary president.56 The significance of this society becomes more clear when we
realize that till 1889 there was a law which virtually forbade Trade Unions in Italy.
4.4 Work Contracts
In order to ensure that young workers were being dealt with fairly and were
treated humanely on the job, from 1851 onwards, Don Bosco entered into agreements
with the employers through work contracts. According to these contracts boys were to
be employed in their trade and not as servants; corrections were to be given only in word
and not through corporal punishments; the health, rest and annual holidays of the
apprentices were to be regulated; regular stipend and increment had to be provided. On
his part the apprentice was to be diligent, docile, respectful, obedient and to repair any
damage he might cause. The contract was to run for two or three years.57
The significance of these contracts become evident when we note that in order to
bring down the cost of production the manufacturers employed children and women
instead of men. They had to work 13 to 14 hours a day for seven days a week. It is
estimated that in 1844 there were about 7184 child-labourers below the age of 10 in the
silk, wool and cotton factories of Piedmont. The law forbidding children under nine to
work in factories, those under ten in the mines and those under twelve to do night work
was passed only in 1886. The law restricting the working hours of those under 15 to
eleven hours was passed only in 1900.
Don Bosco is not the originator of workers contracts. Such contracts were
already demanded by the Organization for the Instruction of the Poor. But it can be
said that Don Bosco is one among the first to have such contracts drawn up between a
master and an apprentice in Turin.58 None of the other contracts that have come down

16
from that time includes vacation every year for the apprentice.59 There does not seem to
have been any provision in the contract for redressal if the master violated the contract.
It was so to say a private contract with no possibility of appealing to the state or making
the state responsible for seeing that the contract was upheld.
At the time of Don Bosco there were hardly any technical schools in Turin. Boys
and girls trained for work through apprenticeship. By 1853 Don Bosco began workshops
in the oratory so that boys could learn a trade (1853 workshop for shoemakers; 1853
tailoring; 1854 book-binding; 1856 carpentry; 1862 press, metal works). By 1870s
they became fully equipped professional schools.60
Through these initiatives Don Bosco guaranteed fundamental rights such as
education, employment, health, rest, provisions for sickness, a just salary and social and
moral obligations towards workers. Most probably he did not see them in terms of
rights. Probably he saw them in terms of the demands of Christian charity. He did not
demand that these rights be ensured for all. He did not organize Catholic Workers
Unions or persuade the government to make legislation defending workers rights. But
because of all what he did for workers, some would consider Don Bosco the first true
Italian trade unionist in his stand for the rights of workers.61 At the same time, because
his enterprises did not embrace the whole society but was restricted largely to the oratory,
and because he did not work to change the system, some would say that he remained
extraneous to the real movements and needs of the masses.62
He did not work for social legislation because he felt that if he were to work for
that the state would stop its aid to him and he would have to risk closing down his
schools and hostels. This would have meant that the boys would again be left to
themselves. So he chose to help the young in the way he could leaving fight for social
legislation to others.63 Don Bosco was certainly very creative and came up with many
innovative initiatives. Yet, scholars like Pietro Braido are of the opinion that it seems
neither appropriate nor precise to talk of Don Bosco as a path-finder, because it
becomes clear as one studies him that almost all his ideas and initiatives were products of
the patrimony of Catholic tradition Perhaps his distinguishing mark was the realistic
way that he faced up to his age and adapted to it, often with a kind of unbiased, tactical
shrewdness that was usually proved right.64
5. UDHR and the Preventive System Mutual Enrichment and Support
Since UDHR and the Preventive System are interrelated they can enrich and
support each other in different ways.
5. 1 Support and Enrichment that the Preventive System can Offer to the UDHR
1. The very act of making known a right cautions people against violating it. Thus
when it is proclaimed that every person has a right to life, it curbs the urge one
may have to deprive another of that right. In this sense, the UDHR is preventive
by the very fact that the rights have been declared and they are owed by UN
member states to those under their jurisdiction.
2. The UDHR is a declaration. It needs a mechanism by which people are made
aware, taught these rights. This cannot be done using a repressive system for that
would go counter to everything that is enunciated in the UDHR. So the best
system for teaching it is a system like the Preventive System.

17
3. So far human rights have been confined to the offices of jurists, lawyers and
philosophers couched in legal language inaccessible to the young.
The
preventive system gives visibility to these rights in the everyday settings of their
life (e.g., right to education, right to leisure, right to association, right to
expression, right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment). Thus it makes it easier for the young to understand, imbibe and
practise these rights.
4. The preamble of UDHR states that the advent of a world in which human beings
shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has
been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people (preamble 2).
This aspiration can be paraphrased as a longing for happiness which results when
the various needs of the human being are met. This is what the preventive system
wishes for everyone: I have only one wish, to see you happy both in this world
and in the next.65
5. Human rights have been promoted so far mainly using a punitive method, that
is, denouncing violations once they have occurred66. It is certainly important to
denounce violations after they have occurred and before they occur. However,
denouncing is only one way and perhaps not the best way. Human rights need to
be promoted through a culture of rights, through creating an atmosphere where
violations become difficult, through prevention rather than through cure. The
preventive system, which advocates prevention rather than cure can be a great
inspiration as well as means for creating such a culture of rights. In the words of
our Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chvez, The preventive system offers human
rights a unique and innovative educational approach regarding the movement to
foster and protect human rights up to now identified by denouncing ex post,
meaning the denunciation of violations already committed. The preventive
system offers human rights preventive education, meaning an action and proposal
which is ex ante.67
6. Preventive System can be the enabling environment for a culture of rights
(human rights culture). By culture of rights we mean an ambience (an
atmosphere) made up of knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, ways of behaving, art,
modes of entertainment, legal systems, and the like that respect, ensure the
realization (fulfillment) of human rights and make it difficult to violate the rights.
Preventive system can be the matrix, or the enabling environment that facilitates
the development of a culture of rights. Some of the ways in which Preventive
system does this are the following:
i)
Empowering the young person education, games, theatre, music, art,
etc., are means by which a person can be empowered to take
leadership, to talk in public, to discuss, to understand and claim what
is ones due. Once a person is empowered, he/she will not easily
allow others to take advantage of him/her.
ii)
Channeling energies to socially acceptable and useful activities:
Games, music, theatre, etc., are ways for channeling the energy of
persons to socially useful and acceptable activities and thus reducing
anti-social activities.

18
iii)

Discovering the good in each one and making it flower: One of the
underlying convictions of the preventive system as enunciated by Don
Bosco is: in every young man, even the most wretched, there is a spot
accessible to good and it is the educators first duty to seek out this
spot, this sensitive chord of the heart and to make good use of it.68
The one who practices preventive system does not write off anyone,
for in each one there is the potential to be good. By tapping that
potential and transforming a person from being bad to good we
ensure a healthy atmosphere and lessen possible violations of human
rights.
iv)
Reducing acts of violence: By avoiding cruel and humiliating
punishments preventive system reduces possible acts of revenge and
thus violation of rights.
v)
Love and acceptance: Often unruly behaviour which violates the rights
of others is an unhealthy and indirect way of seeking recognition.
When one is loved and accepted one will not resort to negative ways
of seeking recognition and acceptance. Love and acceptance helps a
person to develop a positive self-image, a sine qua non for respecting,
insisting on and claiming rights.
vi)
Values are caught, not taught. Young People will catch human rights
by seeing them (e.g., right to liberty, expression, religion, leisure)
being upheld and practiced by the preventive system as these are all
elements of the system.
vii)
Joyful atmosphere: the joyful and serene atmosphere generated by
preventive system is conducive for acting in ways respectful of the
rights of others. It also offers a conducive atmosphere for explaining
and teaching rights.
viii) The presence of the educator (enlightened person) with the group or
the individual checks the group/individual from violating the rights of
others. It also enables the group/individual, under the guidance of the
educator, to challenge those who deny them their rights.
7. UDHR 26 2 speaks of education as a means for promoting human rights. The
inheritors and promoters of the Preventive System, the Salesians, are in
educational contact with 15 million boys and girls in 130 countries.69 The
Salesians have a geographical and cultural representation that is available,
perhaps, to few other educational agencies. This is a great asset for playing a key
role at world level in promoting human rights.
8. The four dimensions of Salesian youth ministry are i) education and culture, ii)
evangelization and catechesis, iii) vocational guidance, and iv) Groups. By being
committed to these areas we ensure that rights are being realized: the right to
education, the right to participate in cultural life, the right to profess a religion, the
right to choose a career, the right to association.
5.2 Support and Enrichment that the UDHR can give to the Preventive System
1. The language of human rights is secular in nature and is acceptable to all.
Preventive System can reformulate its goals in terms of the language of rights so

19
that it will be easier to enlist the cooperation of others and work towards the
same common goal the integral development of each person.

2.

3.

4.
5.

6.

7.

Reason, religion, loving kindness, and the goal of preventive system can be
rephrased in the language of rights. Thus reason could be understood as i)
justice, in the sense that the educator, as well as the youngster, is subject to the
rule rights and obligations must be constantly respected and lived up to by
everybody; and as ii) understanding theoretically what rights are. Religion, could
be understood as faith in something transcendent, something beyond us,
something that we do not yet experience fully. We do not yet see a world of
justice, peace and love. It seems impossible. But something makes us hope it is
possible, believe it is possible and make us work for it. Loving kindness may be
expressed in terms of basic respect for all. And the goal of education which Don
Bosco expressed as forming good Christians and honest citizens may be
expressed as helping to develop to the full a persons potential as a person by
forming ones conscience, developing ones intelligence, understanding ones
duties and rights, and helping one grasp ones destiny.70
The language of human rights enables the preventive system (once it is rephrased
in terms of rights) to let itself be discussed, understood and introduced into the
different cultures of the world.
The preventive system enshrines (contains within it) human rights. In a sense the
preventive system may be said to be a seed of human rights waiting to burst open
and bear fruit. The UDHR can prod, challenge and support preventive system to
actualize the potential within it. If the preventive system is a seed of human
rights then the UDHR is the sun that can nourish it and make it grow.
Human rights point out to preventive system new frontiers for intervention, e.g.
refugees, gypsies, child soldiers, family.
Human rights offer preventive system opportunities for dialogue and
networking with other bodies with a view to identifying and removing the causes
of injustice, iniquity and violence.71
Education, in many cases, ends up turning out an elite group of people who enjoy
many privileges, ends up maintaining the status quo which continues to privatize
riches in the hands of few people and socialize poverty. In other words there is a
rupture between education and society, a divide between school and
citizenship.72 Education does not produce socially responsible and socially
committed persons. Human rights, in a way, empower preventive system to make
an effective response to this dichotomy in education.
Since the UDHR is not legally binding technically, there are no signatories to the
Declaration. Instead, the Declaration was ratified through a proclamation by the
General Assembly on December 10, 1948 with 48 votes in favour and 8
abstentions. This was considered a triumph as the vote unified very diverse, even
conflicting political regimes. All the countries of the world subscribe to human
rights. Thus UDHR offers the preventive system, the support and backing of the
all the countries of the world to to put into practice in different settings our
commitment to prevention, to all-round development, to the building of a world

20
that is more equitable, more just, more healthy.73 This is tremendous power.
What a boon from the UDHR to the preventive system!
6. The Need for a Paradigm Shift for the Promotion of Human Rights
Salesians are doing quite much for the promotion of human rights. But in order
for us to be more effective in this ministry we need to make certain strategic changes in
our thinking and acting. From a congregation that does welfare work and educates using
a non-repressive system, we have to become a congregation that upholds the social
dimension of charity74 and promotes human rights though a creative use of the preventive
system. This is the paradigm shift that is needed. Without elaborating much I will
enumerate a number of changes that are needed:
1. Change from Seeing the Preventive System merely as an Alternative to the
Repressive System to Seeing it as an Excellent Tool to Promote Human Rights
So far we have been accustomed to considering the preventive system only as a
system of education different from the repressive system. We have not paid
attention to its human rights potential. We need to study and elaborate its
inherent potential for the promotion of human rights and use it for the same.
2. Change from Forming Law Abiding Citizens to Right Claiming Citizens.
We have always enunciated one of the goals of education as forming honest
citizens and understood that to mean forming law abiding citizens. That is not
enough. We need to educate young people to claim their rights. Unless rights are
claimed there is every likelihood that they will be ignored.
3. Change from Being a Responsible Citizen to a Citizen who Makes the State
Responsible
Each one has to do his part to ensure that the rights of others are respected and
guaranteed. When rights are violated it is the duty of each one to protest and
bring the violation to the notice of those concerned. However, individuals are not
enforcers of rights. It is the duty of the state to see that rights are enforced. The
state is the duty-holder with regard to enforcing rights. We must prevail upon the
state to do its duty and ensure that the rights of all are respected.
4. Change from Being Accountable to the State to Making the State Accountable
We are accountable to the state for many things like the payment of taxes. As
conscious citizens we are expected to do our duty. However, that is not enough.
We have the duty to make the state accountable to the people for the state exists
for the people.
5. Change from Being a Service-Providing Organization to a Service-Demanding
Organization
All the religious congregations, NGOs and other such organizations provide a lot
of services. We provide services which actually the state is supposed to provide,
e.g. health care, education. We must demand that the state provide the services
which it is supposed to provide. As individuals or as single organizations what
we can do is very little as we do not have the finances, the personnel and the
power to make laws. The State has all these resources at its disposal. But often
they are unused, under-utilized and misused. The reach of the State is very wide.
By one ordinance or a law it can touch the lives of all the citizens which is beyond
the wildest dreams even of well-run organizations. So while complementing the

21
state in providing services we need to demand that the state provide all what it is
supposed to provide.
In doing this we face a very difficult challenge. Our institutions are our strength in
terms of meeting the needs of people. At the same time they are also our
Achilles heels in demanding, claiming rights. We are afraid that if we begin to
claim rights our institutions will be touched. So how do we navigate the shift
from meeting needs to claiming rights? Do we have to think in terms of
alternatives to institutions?
6. Change from Passively Existing in the Civil Society to Actively Creating a Civil
Society that Protects Rights
The fundamental rights are guaranteed by the state. But the economic, social
rights, etc., are to be guaranteed by the civil society. The civil society, which
should actually shield people against violation of rights is often the violator.
Hence it is our duty to create a conscious and responsible civil society. Education
is a privileged means for doing this.
7. Change from Inviting Others to Network with Us to Seeking to Network with
Others.
We Salesians have so far worked with an attitude that we are self-sufficient. We
have asked for collaboration, but we have asked others (the benefactors, agencies,
government) to collaborate with us. We need to make a shift. We need to join
hands with all those who are working to promote human rights. That way we
become a potent force. GC 26 demands that we move from an educative activity
which is too self-sufficient, to net-working with whoever has the needs of the
young at heart.75
8. Change from Keeping Aloof from Politics to Responsible and Appropriate
Involvement in Politics.
Don Bosco kept aloof from the politics of his day for strategic reasons. He felt
that if he were to get involved in politics he would not be able to do the good that
he was doing as he would have to take sides and that would alienate some of his
collaborators, lead to division among his boys and make his work be at the mercy
of fluctuating political situations. His reason for keeping out of politics is clear
from what he says: In 1848 I realized that if I wanted to get anywhere in doing
good, I had to put all politics aside. From then on, I always shied away from
politics and managed to do good without interference.76 In a letter to the Marquis
Roberto dAzeglio he writes: Signor Marchese, my invariable method is to keep
away from everything relating to politics: never for, never against My aim is to
do a little good to poor, abandoned boys, devoting all my energies to making them
good Christians where religion is concerned, and honest citizens in all that
touches upon civil society both now and in the future I want to keep away from
politics.77 Elsewhere he says: In my house any kind of discussion of politics is
forbidden; there has never been even a subscription to a newspaper. I have
always believed that a priest could carry out his ministry of charity at any time or
in any place, no matter what the government and laws that surround him. He can
respect and even assist the authorities, while keeping himself rigorously aloof
from politics.78 Speaking to the Past Pupils in 1883 he said: We respect duly
constituted authority, we are law-abiding, we pay our taxes and we go forward,

22
asking only that we be left free to work for the good of youth and save souls. If
necessary, we get also into politics, but in a totally harmless manneron the
contrary, in a way advantageous to every government Now, the work of the
Oratory aims at reducing the number of the unruly and vagrant, the
wrongdoers and petty thieves, and thus to empty out the jailsin a word, to turn
out good citizens who, far from making trouble for public authorities, will rather
be their support in maintaining order, tranquility, and peace in society. This is our
politics; this has thus far been our only concern, and it will continue to be our
only concern in the future.79 However, in his address to the First General
Chapter (1877), he said: We may get involved in politics when it is
advantageous and genuinely advisable. Apart from such case, however, let us
abide by our established rule of not engaging in any political activity.80
Don Bosco kept away from taking active part in politics. But he was very much
aware of the political situation and intervened at times personally to express his
opinion even to the king. Further, we see him actively involved in negotiation
with the government for the appointment of bishops to dioceses which had gone
without bishops for as long as fifteen years and succeeding in his negotiations.
Actually it is in the context of these negotiations when Pope Pius IX asked him
what politics he would use to solve the stalemate that he said: My politics, are
the same as Yours, Your Holinessthe politics embodied in the Pater Noster
(Our Father). When we say it, we daily pray that Gods kingdom may come upon
this earth and spread over it, that it may become ever more effective, powerful
and glorious. Thy kingdom come! This is what really matters.81 We have used
the clich politics of the Our Father to keep aloof from politics. However, Our
Father is the prayer of the Kingdom. If the kingdom of God is taken as it is
understood today (peace, justice and joy, cf. Rom 14:17), then establishment of
the kingdom would call for active involvement in politics.
Don Bosco, for a very practical reason, maintained certain aloofness from politics.
He felt that in order to do works of charity it was better to keep out of politics.82
Today we are called not only to do charity but also to ensure the rights of people.
Further, there is a social dimension to charity.83 This calls for involvement in
politics, for politics is the art of government and rights are ensured only when
people are governed justly. This demands of us Salesians, i) that we be politically
well-informed, ii) that we witness to justice and peace and promote it everywhere,
iii) that we educate the young people to commitment and participation in public
life, or in other words in the many different economic, social, legislative,
administrative and cultural areas which are intended to promote organically and
institutionally the common good. 84 We have to train our young people to play
leadership role in politics. GC XXXIII says: This is a sector we have somewhat
overlooked and disowned. Perhaps we have been afraid But this is a challenge
we have to accept, and a risk we have to take.85 It is time for us to take up the
politics of Christ the Liberator. It is significant that in the Salesian Constitutions
the biblical quotation that introduces our pastoral educational service is the
statement of Jesus at the synagogue of Nazareth about having come to liberate the

23
captives and set free the downtrodden (Lk 4:18). This is also the text with which
our Rector Major, Pascual Chvez, introduces his letter entitled: Let us Educate
with the heart of Don Bosco.
Getting involved to promote human rights, to ensure that all enjoy human rights is
not easy. The filed may be messy and we may have to dirty our hands. But
unless we do this we do not become educators who are witnesses to justice and
rights.
7. Its Name is Yesterday
As we debate the need and mode of promoting human rights, it is being violated
everywhere. All over the world people are being tortured, young men are being unjustly
imprisoned, women are being raped, children are being sold, infants are being starved.
Millions have no safe drinking water, millions have no schools, millions have no
hospitals. Millions are being displaced, thousands upon thousands are being butchered,
hundreds are being condemned without a hearing. One great inspiration for human rights
from the preventive system is the concept of prevention. Promote rights through
prevention. Prevention implies two things: i) Creating a culture of rights so that
violations become rare and difficult; ii) set up mechanisms that take preventive action.
When do we need to do this? Tomorrow? Today? Now? Borrowing from the Nobel
Prize-Winning Chilean poet Gabriella Mistral who, with regard to caring for children,
said: To him we cannot answer Tomorrow, his name is Today, I would say: To
human rights we cannot answer tomorrow. Its name is yesterday. Tomorrow and
today are already too late. For even as I write this, funeral dirges are being sung and
rights are being buried everywhere. So let us rise, organize and educate, to prevent!
8. Conclusion
Human rights are inchoately inherent (present as characteristic attribute ) in the
Preventive System. The Preventive System can be applied only by respecting and
upholding human rights. Its goal is the integral development and total well-being of the
person, which is the flowering of human rights. Therefore it is an educational system
well suited to educate to human rights and to promote it. So far the Preventive System
has been under-utilized for the promotion of human rights. To ensure maximum results
its full potential must be further explored, developed and used. This will require a
paradigm shift in our understanding and application of the Preventive System. To human
rights we cannot say tomorrow. Its name is yesterday.
1
The Project of Life of the Salesians of Don Bosco: A Guide to the Salesian Constitutions (Madras:
Salesian Institute of Graphic Arts, 1987), p. 234.
2
Cited by J.-M. Petitclerc, La Pdagogie salsienne face aux dfies du monde moderne (Paris: Ed. Don
Bosco, 2004), 40 as reproduced by Vito Orlando, La Via dei Diritti Umani (Roma:LAS, 2008), p. 33.
3
Arthur J. Lenti, Don Bosco History and Spirit, vol. 3 (Rome: LAS, 2008), p.150.
4
Arthur J. Lenti, Don Bosco History and Spirit, vol 3 (Rome: LAS, 2008), p.151. Braido comments that
although religion was not explicitly mentioned it was implicitly present. Pietro Braido, Don Boscos
Pedagogical Experience, p. 117-19.
5
Confidential Advice to Directors (1863).
6
Letter from Rome, Constitutions, p. 257.

24

Arthur J. Lenti, Don Bosco History and Spirit, vol 3 (Rome: LAS, 2008), p.144.
Regulations of the Houses (1877), 61. Lenti, vol III, p. 147.
9
E. Ceria, Epistolario IV, p. 265.
10
BM V, p. 600ff.
11
MB, 11, p. 222.
12
A. Caviglia, Il Magone Michele, p. 149. Braido, Don Boscos Pedagogical Experience, p.151. In Don
Boscos biography of Besucco one chapter is on happiness.
13
Arthur J. Lenti, Don Bosco History and Spirit, vol. 3 (Rome: LAS, 2008), p.158.
14
Letter from Rome, Constitutions, p. 259.
15
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, Constitutions, p. 247.
16
Arthur J. Lenti, Don Bosco History and Spirit, vol. 3 (Rome: LAS, 2008), p. 159.
17
Pietro Braido, Don Boscos Pedagogical Experience, p. 5 (translators note)
18
Arthur J. Lenti, Don Bosco History and Spirit, vol. 3 (Rome: LAS, 2008), p. 156.
19
Maggio, p. 24-25.
20
MB XIV, 846f (omitted in the English Biographical Memoirs).
21
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, Constitutions, p. 246-53.
22
Constitutions. P. 245.
23
Pietro Braido, Don Bocos Pedagogical Experience, p. 65-68.
24
Todd D. Whitmore, AHuman Rights,@ (The HarperCollins Publishers), 1995, p. 643.
25
Leonard Swidler, Human Rights: A Historical Overview, Concilium 1990/2 (April):12.
26
Eth. Nic. 1134a 25-35, 1134b 1-35.
27
Lenti, IV, p. 288-89.
28
Maggio, p. 24-25
29
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, Constitutions, p. 247.
30
A letter written by Don Bosco to a Jew in 1881. Letter 2247. Epistolario, V, p. 97.
31
Don Bosco, Il Giovane Provveduto (Turin, 1847), p. 7 (OE II, 187).
32
Don Boscos Confidential Memoranda to Rectors, The Salesian Rector, p. 25.
33
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, p. 248.
34
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, p. 247.
35
Letter of 15th Apr. 1850, Epistolario di San Giovanni Bosco, 1, 32.
36
Souvenir of St John Bosco to the First Missionaries, Constitutions, p. 266.
37
Concerning the Punishments to be Inflicted in Salesian Houses, no. 1.
38
Concerning the Punishments to be Inflicted in Salesian Houses, no. 5.
39
The General Articles of the Regulations for the Houses 1877, no. 3.
40
Pietro Braido, Don Boscos Pedagogical Experience (Rome: LAS, 1989), p. 76, 146.
41
Memoirs of the Oratory p. 197-98.
42
Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 190. Emphasis added.
43
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, p. 249.
44
Memorie dellOratorio, 199-201 (Braido, Pedagogical Experience, 76).
45
Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 281.
46
Letter of 26 August 1872 to the Mayor of Turin. Epistolario di San Giovanni Bosco, 2, 224-25.
47
Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 190.
48
The Preventive System in the Education of the Young, Constitutions, p. 249.
49
MB 5, 347 and 15, 57.
50
Letter 2247. Epistolario, V, p. 97
51
Letter from Rome, Constitutions, p. 259.
52
Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 233, 236, 281-85.
53
Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 233, 236, 284, MB XVII, 850-852.
54
Don Bosco writing in the Salesian Bulletin of September 1877. Lenti, II, p. 211. Lenti, III, p. 287.
55
BM IV, 54-55. Michael Ribotta, Training Boys to Earn a Living: The Beginnings of Vocational
Education at the Oratory, Journal of Salesian Studies IV/1 (Spring 1993): 67.
56
BM, IV, 518-520; Ribotta, Training Boys to Earn a Living, p. 70.
57
MB IV, 295-97. Ribotta, Training Boys to Earn a Living, p. 73-76. Teresio Bosco, In His Footsteps,
trans. Joseph Puthenkalam (Madras: Bon Bosco Publication, n.d.), p. 80-81; Silvio Tramontin, Don Bosco
8

25

and the World of Work, Patrick Egan and Mario Midali, eds., Don Boscos Place in History: Acts of the
First International Congress on Don Bosco Studies (Roma: LAS, 1993), p. 253.
58
.Ribotta, Training Boys to Earn a Living, 71; Tramontin, Don Bosco and the World of Work, p. 253.
59
Ribotta, Training Boys to Earn a Living, p 76.
60
Ribotta, Training Boys to Earn a Living, p. 71-72 (see footnote 22); Tramontin, Don Bosco and the
World of Work, p. 254-59; Teresio Bosco, In His Footsteps, p. 81.
61
Tramontin, Don Bosco and the World of Work, p. 253.
62
Gian Mario Bravo, Torino operaia. Mondo del lavoro e idee sociali nellet di Carlo Alberto, (Torino,
1968), 152. Cited by Tramontin, Don Bosco and the World of Work, p. 337.
63
Teresio Bosco, In His Footsteps, p. 82-85.
64
Braido, Don Boscos Pedagogical Experience, p. 80.
65
Letter from Rome, Constitutions, p. 254.
66
Di Carola Carazzone, Educating to and for Human Rights, Paper presented at the International
Congress on Preventive System and Human Rights, Rome 2009, p. 6-7.
67
Pascual Chvez, Concluding Address of the Rector Major for Preventive System and Human Rights
Congress, Rome, 2009, no. 3.
68
MB V, p. 367.
69
Pascual Chvez Villanueva, Concluding Address of the Rector Major for Preventive System and
Human Rights Congress, Rome, 2009, no 1.
70
Pascual Chvez Villanueva , Let Us Educate with the Heart of Don Bosco, (2007), no. 2.3
71
Pascual Chvez Villanueva , Concluding Address of the Rector Major for Preventive System and
Human Rights Congress, Rome, 2009, no 3.
72
Pascual Chvez Villanueva , Educazone e cittadinanaza. Lectio Magistralis for the Doctorate Honoris
Causa, Genoa, 23 April 2007.
73
Pascual Chvez Villanueva , Let Us Educate with the Heart of Don Bosco, (2007), no. 3.
74
See GC XXIII, nos. 204, 209, 212
75
GC XXVI, no. 104.
76
BM, VI, p. 397.
77
Memoirs of the Oratory, p. 355-56..
78
Epistolario di San Giovanni Bosco, I, 189. See also 190-92, 273.
79
BM, XVI, 227. Italics added.
80
ASC D 578; Lenti, IV, p. 285; BM XIII, 195 (Lenti notes that this text is in need of correction).
81
BM, VIII, p. 260.
82
Lenti, IV, p. 287-90.
83
See GC XXIII, no. 204.
84
GC XXIII, no. 214.
85
GC XXIII, no. 214.