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The Journal News (White Plains, NY)

Reverend Is Appointed To Human Rights Commission

BY Jaime Garzon

20 August 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Journal News (White Plains, NY). All rights reserved.

An area resident was appointed last week to the tri-municipal Mamaroneck-Larchmont Human Rights Commission, a group created to improve relations in the community regardless of race, religion and social status.

Each year, one person from Larchmont and Mamaroneck villages and the town of Mamaroneck is appointed to a three-year term on the nine-member board.

The Rev. Javier Viera was appointed to his first term as a commissioner by the Mamaroneck Village Board Aug. 9.

The 34-year-old said he looks forward to learning more about some of the many issues plaguing the community.

On a positive note, "Mamaroneck is beginning to reflect a more global village. It is becoming a more diverse community," Viera said.

"That is a positive and a strength within the community," Viera said, even though the commission may be challenged to deal with some human rights issues that might be brought on by the growing immigrant population here.

"We will look as always to resolve any issues that come before us," said Viera, who said he brings a sensitivity to the group because of his background.

Viera, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, was at a parish in New York City for six years before coming on board as a Mamaroneck clergyman two years ago.

Viera, of the Mamaroneck United Methodist Church, is a board member of both the Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck and the Washingtonville Housing Alliance.

"I think I bring an interesting perspective to the table being a family man, a clergyman and someone so active within this community," Viera said. Also, Viera said he doesn't mind spending his time serving the church and area residents.

"It is a meaningful way for me to live out my life," he said.

Viera lives in Mamaroneck Village with his wife, Marianne, and his two children.

The nine commissioners meet once a month and regularly hold events raising awareness about opportunities to overcome existing prejudices in society.

The commission also deals with disputes between neighbors and community members that lead to conflicts with each other.

"Our function is to mediate or help resolve these disputes by acting as a liaison between the disputing parties," said Robert Degen, the commission's chairman.

"Our whole committee," he said, is trained by the 5-year-old Westchester County Human Rights Commission.

Currently, the commission is planning to "bring area youth and police together" in a forum-like setting to "express their shared biases and concerns about each other," Degen said.

The group, he said, will also look to deal with racial issues in the area by providing the community with educational programs that encourage unity and by bringing people together so they can "challenge their own biases."

Doing these things, he said, will be pivotal in getting people to discuss race, prejudice, anti-semitism, sexual-preference and other human rights issues.

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