United Nations 'Declaration on Human Rights' turns 60

United Nations 'Declaration on Human Rights' turns 60

December 06, 2008
Written by Gregg Brekke

The General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service have called for churches in the U.S. to observe the 60th anniversary of the issuance of the United Nations' Universal Declaration on Human Rights on Sunday, Dec. 14.

In a Nov. 24 letter, the organizations praised the Declaration on Human Rights for its far-sighted application and continuity with the church's mission. "Its affirmation of human dignity and of harmonious relationships among people is surely consistent with the gospel of God's love for every person and God's will for reconciliation," the letter said.

The celebration of this anniversary, Human Rights Week - Dec. 10-17, 2008, is an initiative of the U.N. Secretary-General. It is led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and supported by U.N. agencies, departments and funds, and other international and local partners, to honor the Declaration and the promise that has made this document so enduring: "Dignity and justice for all of us".

Primary to the Declaration is the insistence that all humans are created with inalienable rights that cannot be stripped regardless of "race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

The Rev. Betty Jane Bailey (ret.) was present at a U.N. conference for non-governmental organizations in Paris on Sept. 3-5, 2008. Representing Global Ministries and Wider Church Ministries at the United Nations, Bailey noted the gathered body agreed that nations of the world would be unlikely to sign such a declaration in today's international political climate.

Of particular concern was the shift in human rights requirements due to the changed world from 60 years ago including extended political detention, the treatment of alleged terrorists, economic and ecological rights, food security and the distinction between individual and communal rights.

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights may have attained elder status at 60 years but it is still in the making as we all are at that age," says Betty Jane Bailey. "We can see things more clearly as time has tested the basic assumptions on which the Declaration was based and 60 years of experience has mellowed our expectations."

A copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is available on the internet at <un.org/Overview/rights>. Organizational resources can be found at <everyhumanhasrights.org>. 

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