Wouldn’t the world be more peaceful if just writing and affirming a great statement like, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’ were enough to make it so?
Events around the world testify to the fact that a great declaration of freedom is not, in itself, a dependable assurance of civil liberties.
In 1945, delegates from the post-war world gathered in San Francisco to initiate the United Nations (UN). Two years later, the newly formed UN would provide the platform for the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This year marks seven decades since the document’s adoption.
The UDHR came in the aftermath of totalitarian regimes wreaking havoc on their own citizens and around the world. ‘But in 1948, world leaders gathered together and with one voice declared, “Never again,”’ says Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.
Generally agreed to be the foundation of international human rights law, the UDHR contains powerful statements that were revolutionary for many parts of that still war-shattered world, and continue to be revolutionary today.
The Declaration recognizes essential rights including the right to life, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. It recognizes the family as the ‘natural and fundamental group unit of society’, and declares that parents have a ‘prior right’ to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
‘These are the fundamental human rights that ADF International works to defend around the world today,’ says Coleman. ‘Sadly, however, in the 70 years since the UDHR was adopted, the willingness of governments and their leaders to live out the words that they signed their names to has been patchy at best.’
For instance, parents receive word that a government child-welfare agency has just visited their children’s school and taken them away. Then, a banging on the door: they’ve come to take their other children, too. Not because they’ve been abused, or neglected, but simply because they are being raised in accordance with their personal religious beliefs.
That happened to Marius and Ruth Bodnariu of Norway, whose five young children were removed from their care, without any warning or notice. A powerful government agency known as Barnevernet removed the children because authorities in the family’s community felt that the children were being ‘indoctrinated’ by their parents’ faith convictions.
Thankfully – amid intense pressure from the international community – Barnevernet eventually returned the children to their home. But parents like Marius and Ruth should not have to live in fear simply for deciding how their children should be educated. Article 26 of the UDHR recognizes that as a fundamental human right – one parents enjoy before other family members, the local community, and, most importantly, the state.
Marius and Ruth are human, right?
Or consider young Ruben, six years-old and the only member of his family who can see. His mother and father have been blind since birth. He’s seen quite a bit, already. His family lives in the Indian state of Madyha Pradesh, where the ground is as dry as the air. Hardship is a fact of life for Ruben and his family.
It got much harder a few months ago, as they were holding a worship meeting at their church. An angry mob stormed the church, assaulting the worshippers. The pastor–Ruben’s father – was dragged to the police station, along with Ruben and his mother. There, they were stripped and beaten repeatedly, then kept in jail for three days and nights before being released on bail.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. A growing group of fanatics wants to purge India of all non-Hindu religions. India faces some of the fiercest restrictions on religious freedom in the world.
According to the Universal Declaration, Ruben and his family should have the freedom to practice their Christian faith ‘in teaching, practice, worship, and observance’. After all, they’re human, right?
Seven decades after its creation, the Universal Declaration still stands as an unprecedented global recognition of the universality of human rights. ‘In an age in which those rights continue to be consistently ignored, abused, and distorted,’ Coleman says, ‘the Universal Declaration is not only relevant, but crucial.’
To re-focus world attention on these issues, ADF International, has launched a multi-national media campaign called ‘I’m Human, Right?’ A key element of that campaign is The Geneva Statement written by ADF International to urge the United Nations and its Member States to recommit to the vision so clearly articulated and adopted 70 years ago. Essential to this is a reaffirmation of the fundamental understanding that human rights are based on the inherent dignity of each and every person.
Make your voice heard today by standing up for Christians and other religious minorities facing persecution around the world, protecting rights of conscience for those who act according to their beliefs, and defending the right to life for the most vulnerable in our societies.
Visit www.ImHumanRight.org to add your voice by signing The Geneva Statement.
In December, ADF International will participate in an event at the United Nations in New York. Signing the statement will serve as a powerful reminder that people the world over are watching, and urging the UN to take a leading role in ensuring that the international community recommits to the vision of the Declaration and to ensure that everyone’s human rights are protected.