The New York Times recently featured an article, which said, in essence that the human rights movement has failed. I wrote a letter to the editor which said in essence that not paying attention to human rights means ultimately not needing major mandates by many, if not almost entirely, of the world’s religions to do our duties to our neighbor. Here it is in its entirely:
Your article “How the human rights movement failed” (April 23), shows a mis understanding of what human rights is. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch certainly do good work, but their emphases, by and large, on civil rights does tend to be narrow. Rights are interdependent meaning one cannot speak about one set of rights, such as civil rights, like freedom of speech without speaking about economic rights, like the right to employment, and even solidarity rights, like the right to peace. What, after all, is freedom of speech to a person who is unemployed, homeless or lives in a world at war? Indeed, it was Dr. King who said “The era of civil rights is over. The human rights era has begun.” Saint John Paul II said, furthermore, that “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [the authoritative definition of human rights standards] ought to be lived in letter and in spirit.” Saying the human rights movement has failed, means that one should not take seriously fundamental values found in most spiritual traditions, such as duties to our neighbor and treating others like we would like to be treated. If the Universal Declaration were taught to our youth, many of the values it speaks to, such as human dignity and non-discrimination, which mirror such traditions, would be lived eventually and mirrored in socially just policies, which continue to be a rallying cry throughout the world.
What do you think?
I couldn’t agree more!