"The heart of all discussions of human rights is the battle against discrimination. All human beings are equal. No discrimination is permissible. Absolutely none."

As we commemorate Human Rights Day — the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948 — I recall these words of my friend the Brazilian philosopher Austregesilo de Athayde, one of the key members of the drafting committee.

While we may be adept at understanding the feelings of those with whom we have a close relationship, geographical and cultural distances often result in a corresponding psychological distancing. People end up avoiding interaction with those who are different, instead viewing individuals and groups through the lens of stereotypes; and modern means of communication can be used to amplify and spread the impulse to stereotyping and hatred.