Augustinians Support Human Rights Day

December 10, 2013

Human Rights Day 2013 is the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was adopted December 10, 1948. It is also the 20th Anniversary of the World Conference of Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), which created the position of High Commissioner for Human Rights, an independent, authoritative voice for human rights around the world.

Augustinians of the Midwest are encouraged to mark these anniversaries in their communities and ministries. The Augustinians invite and encourage all who identify with Augustinian spirituality and traditions to do likewise.

‘20 Years: Working for Your Rights’ is 2013 Motto

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The motto for Human Rights Day 2013 is “20 Years: Working for Your Rights.”

This theme celebrates the 20 years of achievement through the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but with the emphasis on the future and identifying the challenges that lie ahead, according to the O.H.C.H.R. web site.

High Commissioner Navi Pillay, in her remarks to the Vienna + 20 Conference on Human Rights (June 28, 2013), cited some of the new challenges which need to be addressed, including global terrorist movements, issues related to migration in the modern world, threats to freedom of expression, invasion of privacy in cyberspace, climate change and unforeseen economic crises affecting many countries across the planet.

“Sometimes the responses to these challenges raise as many, or more, human rights concerns than the problems they set out to address – counter-terrorism and austerity measures being two obvious examples,” Ms. Pillay said.

“It is vital for us to maintain momentum... We must refuse to compromise on the hard-won fundamental human-rights-compliant laws, standards and institutions that have been built up over the past half century. These need to be consolidated, expanded, strengthened,” she said.

Human Rights Day themes mesh well with the long Bible-based Christian tradition of compassion, and Catholic pro-life teaching on the dignity of every human person. The Bible encourages Christians to promote and defend basic human rights. Jesus said, “As often as you did this for one of my least brothers or sisters, you did it for me.” (cf. Matthew 25: 31 - 46) James urges, “My brothers and sisters, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save, has it?... faith that does nothing in practice . . . is thoroughly lifeless,” (cf. James 2: 14 - 26).

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted December 10, 1948 by the international community, has served as a beacon of hope. The Declaration has been translated into more than 360 languages. It holds the Guinness World Record for most translated document in the world.

“The extraordinary vision and determination of the drafters produced a document that for the first time set out universal human rights for all people in an individual context,” U. N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

Many countries have incorporated provisions of the Declaration into their Constitutions and laws. The principles of the Declaration form the basis of numerous actions taken by the nations of the world.

Likewise, the brave men and women who defend human rights in every country shine as a beacon of hope, casting the bright light of human rights into the darkest corners of tyranny and abuse. They work to safeguard the rule of law, to reduce violence, poverty and discrimination, and to build societies that are more free, more equitable and more just.

The Augustinian Order, through its observance of Human Rights Day, through its Non-Governmental Organization (N.G.O.) at the U. N., and through its ministries throughout the world, seeks to put into action the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, as found in the Bible and in the traditional social teaching of the Catholic Church.

Our Challenge

Noting that the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Declaration are still not a reality for everyone, Ban said that the document is as relevant today as it was when it was first adopted.

“Too often, Governments lack the political will to implement international norms they have willingly accepted,” Ban observed. “This anniversary year is an occasion to build up that will. It is a chance to ensure that these rights are a living reality -- that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. It is often those who most need their human rights protected, who also need to be informed that the Declaration exists -- and that it exists for them. Let us make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights an integral part of everyone’s life,” Ban concluded.

The Augustinians of the Midwest encourage you to observe Human Rights Day by

  • Reaffirming your right to express your opinion and in the public decision-making process without fear, threat or shame,
  •  Becoming more aware of how basic human rights are being violated around the world,
  • Lifting up in prayer those whose suffer retaliation when they attempt to speak out and act  for human rights and dignity,
  • Asking God to change the hearts of those in positions of power who do not respect the human rights of others,
  • Asking God to enlighten and guide us to respect and defend the dignity and rights of all human beings wherever they may be,
  • Encouraging your local schools, your church and other organizations to provide education about human rights, and
  • Speaking out in support of governmental actions and policies that ensure the right of all citizens to have their voices heard in the making of public policy.

“Human rights education is much more than a lesson in schools or a theme for a day; it is a process to equip people with the tools they need to live lives of security and dignity. On this International Human Rights Day let us continue to work together to develop and nurture in future generations a culture of human rights, to promote freedom, security and peace in all nations,” urged Kofi Annan, immediate past Secretary General of the U. N.

Prayer Service for Human Rights Day

Click here for a suggested prayer service for Human Rights Day from the International Augustinian Secretariate for Justice and Peace.