The Declaration of Human Rights is for all

by Fr. Shay Cullen

| Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

December 10, 2023, is the 75th anniversary of the worldwide publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 217A at its 3rd session in Paris on December 10, 1948. It was a torn and destroyed world after WWII that was reeling after the destruction, death, and mass murder of an estimated total of 70–85 million people, 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 creatures ever to 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, dignity, and 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 countries have embraced these principles and the rights of their people, but many have done so in words only, not deeds. 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 it. To do so is to emerge from the wild savage instincts closer to wild animals to the conscious rational thinking of a reflective, educated 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, war, and brutal acts in West Asia and Ukraine are a total disregard and gross violation of these rights. There can be no grievance on either side used to justify any offense against any person.

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 instill fear, domination, and total control.

The first article of the Declaration lays down 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.”

“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.”

Not only is the right to equality declared, but the rights are for everyone: “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or another 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 intimidation.

The Declaration says in its preamble that when people are deprived of their rights, 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 a deprivation and violation of her civil, legal, and human rights. She is a symbol, an example of how low the respect for law and human rights has 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 wealthy elite, is working for the rich elite to make them richer. Equality is just a distant dream of people experiencing poverty. The poverty they endure, surviving on a scrawny bowl of rice and soy sauce, is their daily nightmare. The rule of law is primarily bent in favor 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 favoring the abuser. It was Jesus of Nazareth who first established the dignity and rights of children, women, and people with low incomes.

He championed their cause for 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, and 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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