Dashing about the mad ‘get-everything-ready’ 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 gets a bit more media attention & folks working for justice around the globe have their sound byte, 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 & 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. Often that’s just the beginning of their horrors. 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 the war zone… and in Africa kidnapped girls are raped, then forced to be ‘wives’ for conscripted soldiers.
Thinking about 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 so grateful for the freedoms & opportunities i had 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 & fetching water is part of family survival. Where I worked in the Middle East, all the schools were shut down for four years – even kindergarten teachers caught teaching their students were sent to prison. Then 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 the Golden Rule: ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – maybe dehumanization would not happen & this great evil would not persist.
How would you feel if your wife, daughter, son, brother, sister, husband, or father was beaten, imprisoned, and routinely tortured? How would you feel if the breaking of your bones was considered “moderate physical pressure?”
So why is it ‘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.
“…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, however, 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… and so many like Oscar Romero around the world (& in this country) laid down their lives in the pursuit of justice, equal rights – basic human rights FOR ALL. Thanking God – today & EVERY DAY – for the gift of their lives & their legacy to continue fighting injustice wherever, whenever, however we can…
So pass around more Eggnog, raise those glasses high – and hear Virginia’s Human Rights Day toast: TO LIFE! TO JUSTICE! TO FREEDOM!
Look around – see what you can do to root out the rubble of injustice wherever you are & around the World. Let’s be about it!!
“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
“…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