December 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writes Fr Shay Cullen.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 217A at its 3rd session in Paris on 10th December 1948.
The world was torn and destroyed world after World War II, reeling from the destruction, death and mass murder of an estimated total of 70–85 million men, women and children.
There were only approximately 2.3 billion people globally in 1940 and about three percent of them were needlessly killed by the incredible destructive force of the human species.
As of 2021, the world’s population is 7.888 billion. The bitterness, hatred, anger, violent death and destruction unleashed by the human species 83 years ago made humans the deadliest and most vicious creature to ever walk the earth. Humankind is perhaps the most flawed species ever to evolve from prehistory to the present.
This global evil that humans brought upon themselves awakened in the survivors of the war, people of conscience, to establish the true noble dignity of the human person that was so savaged and damaged by the hatred and violence that arose from racist discriminatory urges of one nation against another. That hatred and its expression in violence and death is tragically on display today in West Asia.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights laid down the rights and dignity and the equality of every living human and it was offered to humankind and every nation to accept, respect, ratify and implement or not. We can see in the world today that many nations have embraced these principles and the rights of their people, but many have done so in word only but not in deed. Among political leaders, hypocrites and corrupt politicians proliferate.
There are some nations and leaders that have accepted and believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and strive to implement and respect them. To do so is to emerge from the wild savage instincts closer to wild animals to the conscious rational thinking of a reflective educated human person.
In the preamble to the Declaration, it is stated that the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world and that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”
Violence and war and barbarous acts in West Asia and Ukraine is a total disregard and gross violation of these rights. There can be no grievance on either side used to justify any violation against any persons.
In the Philippines, human rights violations are all too common and government agencies and personalities have thrown aside, with contempt, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and slaughtered innocent people on mere suspicion in a show of brutality designed to instil fear, domination and total control.
The First article of the Declaration lays down clearly the truth and right to be upheld by all humankind. It says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Not only is the right to equality declared but the rights are for all and everyone: “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Yet our world is in a state of upheaval where daily we see nations invade, land grab and occupy another by force and fear. They displace the original inhabitants and rule with discrimination and force.
The Declaration says in its preamble that when people are deprived of their rights and dignity and lands, they tend to rebel and fight back against tyranny.
“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
So only with the rule of just laws and the implementation of them without fakery, connivance, manipulation and delay based on manufactured evidence, will rights be all the more respected and upheld.
However, in the Philippines, the jailing and false charges against Senator Lelia de Lima are clearly a deprivation and violation for her civil, legal and human rights. She is a symbol, an example of how low the respect for law and human rights have fallen in the country.
Filipinos are seriously deprived of these rights vital as they are to the well being and dignity of the human species. Article 3 says, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.”
The widespread and gross inequality shows society, by the rich elite, is working for the rich elite to make them richer. Equality is just a distant dream of the poor. The poverty they endure, surviving on a scrawny bowl of rice and soy sauce, is their daily nightmare. The rule of law is mostly bent in favour of the rich, the influential, the powerful, corrupt and connected people in society.
The rights of the child are so gravely neglected, disrespected and abused that justice is widely or frequently not available to them. They are the most vulnerable of all. Children are, according to Jesus of Nazareth, the most important of all in the world (Matthew 18:1-4).
Yet, some judges and prosecutors fail them by long delays taking two to four months for them to testify as if favouring the abuser. It was Jesus of Nazareth who first established the dignity and rights of children, women and the poor.
He championed their cause to equality and freedom, “Blessed are the poor,” he said. His mission was to uphold the human rights and dignity of the most needy, those deprived of their rights, the innocent in jail, the physically and intellectually blind people.
He fought to free the oppressed people and was executed for it. Many Filipino rights campaigners are unjustly jailed, and they are deprived of their human rights. This must change and justice must be done.
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