Thursday, December 10, 2009

Celebrating Human Rights Day

Today is Human Rights Day, a yearly observance in commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948. The Guinness Book of Records says that the UDHR is the world’s “most translated document.”

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) for more than twenty years now has encouraged Baptist congregations around the world to observe Human Rights Day (HRD) on the Sunday closest to Dec. 10. (I wish Second Baptist Church where I am a member would do so.) On its website the BWA makes available HRD resources, such as “A Prayer of Commitment for Human Rights Day” written by a Brazilian Baptist. That prayer ends with these words:

“As followers of Jesus Christ, we pledge to be agents of life who actively oppose the powers of death manifest in situations of urban and rural violence, war, genocide, and human trafficking, abuses against women and children, economic and sexual exploitation, racial discrimination and religious intolerance. We commit to so respond to your presence in our lives that our cowardice may be turned into boldness, our egotism into solidarity, our fear into hope, and our weakness into strength. With your help, we will courageously serve as agents of your kingdom of freedom, justice, love and peace. In this, may your grace and mercy always attend our efforts. We pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen!”

This is a fine prayer. But as with other materials on the BWA website and in most other places, it does not say anything about gay rights. But the Amnesty International USA website states clearly that it “believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy the full range of human rights, without exception.” They go on to say, “However, every day, across the globe, sexual orientation or gender identity leads to abuse in the form of discrimination, violence, imprisonment, torture, or even execution.”

I pray that at this time of recognizing human rights more and more people, and especially Christians, will come to realize that gay and lesbian people generally fail to enjoy “the full range of human rights” and to support efforts to extend those rights to LGBT people across the world as well as to others.

Just this week a broad range of Christian leaders in this country denounced the terribly harsh anti-gay bill now being considered by the Parliament of Uganda. I am thankful for that, but I wish they would also speak out for the human rights of gays and lesbians in this country as well. (Lee Judge in this morning’s Kansas City Star has a good cartoon about that, which you should be able to see by clicking here.) Full human rights should be available for everyone, everywhere.


  1. I wanted to comment on another aspect of human rights that has been brought to my awareness recently. Daily, in every setting including church, we are reminded to remember OUR soldiers. That is a good thing. But, what seems to be missing is the prayer for the innocents in harms way, much less doing such a radical thing as praying for our enemies. Every time I really consider that demand of the Lord I am humbled and have to honestly say, "You're going to have to help me with that one, Lord." I feel it is too bad that, for what ever reason, it seems we are not made to face these challenging claims of Christ that might really make a difference in this world.

    I think of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and my favorite quote from it:
    "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir."
    Thomas Jefferson did not even limit it to Americans (or Colonist or the English) when he said that "all men are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Granted, he may not have fully grasped how broad the scope of what he was saying would be interpreted, but I see this statement as definitive of a Christian view of human rights. All men (and women and children).

  2. An important day, December 10. Several things in history have happened that have had some bearing up on human rights. In 1520, Martin Luther burned the papal edict demanding he recant. This of course opened the way to certain advances in religious freedom and important aspect of human rights.

    Today is also the anniversary or will be for three people receiving the Nobel Peace Prize...Theodore Roosevelt (1906), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964) and Barack Obama (2009). All have had or will have considerable impact upon the advancements of human rights.

    I find the observance of celebrating human rights in churches so appropriate during the celebration of advent. Surely our preparations for the one who came to bring love and deliverance to all people, should include our own commitment and rededication to human rights to everyone, everywhere.

    Thanks, Leroy for this reminder of an important event. May it be more than a reminder, but a renewed call to life and purpose in our own walks.

  3. I ask, what can we do as the body of Christ to assure that our country does not infringe on the rights set forth in the declaration.

    Article 5 --- No one shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Have we done enough to challenge the rhetoric and justification of torture by our government?

    Article 23 --- "Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work." We have not achieved this in our country. What can and should be done?

    Article 25 --- "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 circumstances beyond his control."

    Does our current efforts at health care reform do enough? Do we do enough for the underemployed in our country?

    Article 26 --- "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit."

    Did anyone see the KC Star article today (12-10) regarding college dropout rates?

    I use these simply as examples of the rights set forth in the declaration which may not be adequately protected, or may be overlooked, at this moment in our history.

    Thank you Leroy for reminding us of this day and this important document.

  4. Unfortunately, I do not see any celebration of human right day on Dec 10 in my country. On the day before, Dec 9, Indonesian people campaigned for anti-corruption day in their urban and rural places.

    Human rights issue, however, is very highly struggled and supported here. The government have founded some independent national committees on human rights (Komnas HAM), such as: komnas on women, komnas on children, and komnas on lower-class group of people.

    One question I would like to ask on human rights issue here: Is it necessary to protect and support Gays legally? On what basis do American government should suport them? Do we have strong biblical basis to protect them and in what best way we can participate to help them? In most cities of Indonesia, Gays are just one of marginalised group of people, along with homeless and jobless groups.

    in the labour of His Kingdom,
    Ichwei G. Indra