Defending And Protecting Human Rights

by Fr. Shay Cullen

Demonstration for the rights of the Uyghurs | Photo by Leonard Lenz via Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0

When we look around the world today, we see that the people of many countries do not have their human rights fully respected, honored, protected, and celebrated by the governments that have to do so. There are many violations by state agencies, police and military, and fellow citizens. The human species aspire to the highest human values but are weak, negligent, and dismissive in implementing and respecting those lofty ideals of the rights inherent in the species because they are human.

According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone should be aware that every person has inalienable rights that must be respected and protected. Every person has universal rights regardless of their nationality, ethnic origin, sex, gender, color, religion, language, or another status. These are the rights: to life, to water, food, security, family, employment, education, freedom and health, and the right to live as they choose.

The principle of universality means that everyone, without exception, is equally entitled to live with their human rights respected and protected, especially by the state. They have the rights to freedom, not to be forced against their will to live according to the will and regulations imposed on them by the state or a group more powerful than them. When we see the violation of human rights, whether it is the rights of an individual, a group, or an ethnic minority, we have to protest. We need to expose the violations, which can be a severe crime against humanity. Each of us, as humans, must demand that the violations end and the perpetrators be held accountable. If we don’t, we too could be victims of such human rights abuses. While that is self-preservation, it is not the valid reason we have to cry out.

“The principle of universality means that everyone, without exception, is equally entitled to live with their human rights respected and protected, especially by the state.”

The protest’s valid reason is that every human is of equal value and shares the same rights as everyone else. “To violate one is to violate all,” we can say because we are all one humanity. There should never be discrimination against anyone, but the greatest crime against humanity is discrimination, ethnic hatred, and racism against millions of human beings today.

In the Philippines, a report last 4 June 2021 by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed 208 human rights defenders and activists killed by assassins, including forest protectors. The police have verified that the war on drugs has killed about 5,903 in shootouts. The OHCHR put the figure at 8,663 killed. Vigilante gunmen have killed many more. President Rodrigo Duterte says it is evidence of success in saving the nation from the scourge of the illegal drug menace.

Another glaring example is the repression of the Uyghurs in China. It is a severe violation of the rights of a whole people. It is why several western nations have chosen not to send national representatives to attend the Winter Olympics in China next February.

The Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, northwest China, are suffering an alleged genocide. Allegedly, they systematically violate most of their human rights, which could be considered crimes against humanity.

According to Human Rights Watch and research done by Stanford Law School’s Human Rights & Conflict Committee, BBC researchers, and documents gleaned from the internal archives of the Communist Party of China, these crimes are widespread. They crush and deprive the Uyghur people of their cultural identity and make them into slaves of the Chinese Communist Party.

They allegedly use thousands of Uyghurs that have been “rehabilitated and brainwashed” to obey the party as unpaid labor in garment factories controlled by the Communist Party. They pressure fashion corporations in Western nations buying the garments to stop buying these products. It will not harm the workers since they do not pay them anyway. It seems being an Uyghur is being guilty of a crime and condemned to forced labor.

A Xinhua Weibo page quotes a Chinese official saying what they should do to Uyghur People: “Break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins. Completely shovel up the roots of “two-faced people,” dig them out, and vow to fight these two-faced people until the end.” It sounds like a declaration of war against these generally peace-loving people.

If the Chinese were free, democratic, they could be the greatest nation on earth because of their rich history, high-level education, natural abilities and intelligence, and love of arts and literature. If the Chinese Communist Party dropped the “Communist” political ideology and identity and became just the “Chinese Party” that respected all rights and allowed other groups to democratically share power. In that case, it could indeed be the greatest nation on earth, admired by all. But the Communist Party has chosen to retain total control above all else. Taiwan has shown the world that a Chinese democratic nation can prosper, thrive, and be free to enjoy its human rights and respect the nations of the world.

“There is no greater mission one could have than to defend in every way possible the human rights of every single person, especially those of women and children.”

In Myanmar, the violation of the rights of the people has escalated since 2020. The most recent atrocity was when a military truck plowed into a small group of protesters, and then the soldiers shot and killed the demonstrators. The truck killed four and many injured. The military that staged a coup last 2020 has violated the people’s human rights with random shooting, detention, torture, arrests, and killing captives in jails. Extra-judicial killings are common.

The plight of the Rohingya is worsening inside Myanmar. A campaign of ethnic cleansing based on hate and rejection in Rakhine State has displaced hundreds of thousands within Myanmar. Already, 740,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh for safety.

The world has a long way to evolve to an intelligent, compassionate place where human rights are respected, upheld, and protected. There is no greater mission one could have than to defend in every way possible the human rights of every single person, especially those of women and children.

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