Tuesday, December 10
Human Rights Day
Minute for Mission
W here do universal human rights begin?” Eleanor Roosevelt’s question concerns the crowning achievement of her public service. In 1947 she chaired a United Nations committee of members from various political, cultural, and religious backgrounds charged with drafting a human rights declaration for all the world’s peoples.
Over a year and 1,400 votes later, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This landmark document represented the first international recognition that human rights and fundamental freedoms apply to every person, everywhere. The declaration provides a bulwark against oppression and discrimination and serves as the foundation of international human rights law. Sixty-five years after its adoption, it inspires people to protect and extend human rights around the world.
Where do universal human rights begin? Eleanor Roosevelt answers in practical terms. They begin in “the world of the individual person: the neighborhood [he or she] lives in; the school or college [she or he] attends; the factory, farm or office where [he or she] works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
For followers of Jesus, universal human rights begin in the affirmation that all people are made in God’s image with inherent worth and dignity. They begin in the biblical message of justice, freedom, and peace. They begin in Jesus’ call to love “God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37–39). They begin in the belief that every person deserves to live the abundant life proclaimed by Jesus.
As we live into God’s vision of justice and peace, as we love one another, we work for human rights in our homes, communities, schools, workplaces, country, and around God’s world. God grant us grace so to do today and every day.
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Creating God, help us recognize your image in one another. Inspire us to join your transforming ministry that protects the weak, challenges the strong, frees the prisoner, proclaims peace, and heals the broken. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Humans really don't have "rights" other than those endowed by societal law, but we do have value and that value begins in the womb. It is there that God intricately forms our being--body, soul, and mind. We each have value--equal value--because we are God's. We are created in his image. We are loved by him, known by him from fertilization and called by him to enact his holy purposes in an unholy world. Jesus affirmed our value from conception when he entered the womb of the woman, Mary. He identified with us in all the stages of human development--even death in order to redeem us and give us resurrection life and adoption as sons and daughters of the most High God. It is not equality of education, opportunity, or material wealth that gives us value. Law can provide equality to a certain measure in those lesser areas, but what makes us equal is that we are all created by God, and our lives are in his hands. He has numbered our days and nothing we can do will add one second to our existence on this earth.
Could not those with whom we have the most trouble be moved by the vision of universal human rights enough to dare to try something different from violence? What new risks can we take to move the violent ones to dare to try a gentler way of overcoming their fears?
Observing Human Rights Day on the same day the world celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela; how fitting.