It’s December 10th, the day the world sets aside to highlight human rights. Once again, here’s Virginia’s Advent post-a-day Human Rights blog. We often think of the lack of human rights in far away places, but this year there are many issues to consider closer to home. Life is a gift, but for many crushed by injustice, inequality, torture, and lack of access to basic rights, it’s a struggle to survive.
Dashing amidst the holiday rush, it’s difficult to slow down to think about Human Rights?? But today back in 1948 a war weary world came together to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Click here to read it.)
Each year on 10 December we commemorate this declaration: the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights engenders media attention & entities fighting injustice have a day in the global spotlight, but tomorrow the world will move on to the next celebrity crisis – and we pass around another round of eggnog.
Before taking that next sip of eggnog, (or your holiday drinkie of choice), think about the many girls and women who have been victims of gender violence, especially rape, in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, the DRC (Congo) & Sudan where it has been used as a weapon of war. That’s often just the beginning of their horrors. Years ago in Kosovo when I met with a 12-year-old rape victim, that was the least of her worries after being used as a human shield by paramilitary forces in a war zone. In Africa, kidnapped girls are often raped, then forced to be ‘wives’ for conscripted soldiers.
Contemplating basic human rights (and the lack thereof) we take so much for granted. Living and working in places where people had no rights, I am grateful for the freedoms and opportunities I experienced growing up.
For example, the right to education. So many girls (& boys in some places, but especially girls) don’t have a chance for even primary school since taking care of livestock, crops, and fetching water is part of family survival. Where I worked in the Middle East, all schools were shut down for four years: even kindergarten teachers caught teaching their students were sent to prison. In other parts of the world girls still don’t have a chance to study because …they’re GIRLS.
Then there’s torture.
If we would think more about what Jesus commanded in His Golden Rule – ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – maybe dehumanization allowing this great evil to persist would not occur.
How would you feel if your wife, husband, daughter, son, brother, sister, mother or father was beaten, imprisoned, and routinely tortured? How would you feel if the breaking of your bones was considered “moderate physical pressure?”
How can it ever be ‘ok’ to torture anyone?? (According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: IT’S NOT OK!)
The most fundamental right, however, is the right to LIFE.
Here’s a paragraph from younger Virginia in a Christmas letter, circa 1999.
“…and seeing mass graves of bodies hacked in senseless violence. I spoke with a farmer in a village near Podejevo. The bodies of his father (78), mother (72), neighbor (70), and sister (55) had been dumped into a mass grave we visited. Although his sister’s husband had urged her to flee, she wouldn’t leave her feeble parents by themselves. His sister and parents were killed, their ears, arms and other body parts sliced and mutilated, and yet, with tears streaming down his face, this farmer said, “it’s not right that we burn Serb houses now.” When I asked about living again with Serbs, he said, “we’ve suffered so much it would be difficult,” but then later he told me there was an elderly Serb woman living on his street, “she’s different, we will protect her because she’s our neighbor.”
I remember this farmer, vividly. He pleaded with his sister to join them as they fled their village to safety, but she said, “who will take care of our parents? They’re so old & can’t hurt anyone, why would anyone want to hurt them?” Indeed.
“Nothing matters so much to me as human life. It is something so serious and so profound, more than the violation of any other human right, because it is the life of the sons (& daughters) of God, and because this blood (the murders of so many in El Salvador) negates love, awakens new hate and makes peace & reconciliation impossible.” Archbishop Oscar Romero
Life IS a gift. So many like Oscar Romero around the world (& in our country) laid down their lives in pursuit of justice, equal rights, and basic human rights FOR ALL. Thanking God – today & every day – for the gift of their lives and legacies to continue fighting injustice wherever, whenever, however we can.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close, so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” Eleanor Roosevelt (who chaired the drafting committee of the declaration & pushed for its passage in the fledgling United Nations.)
Let’s look around to see what we can do to root out the rubble of injustice wherever we are here & around the world. Let’s be about it!!
“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
grace, peace & human rights (for alllllllllllllll!)
Virginia : )
“…is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6
“…And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8