Thursday, December 11, 2008

International Human Rights Day: sorry I'm one day off

I had got it in my head for some reason that International Human Rights Day was today, on my birthday - but it was yesterday. Sorry! Humanist readers of this blog should note that the International Humanist and Ethical Union endorses IHRD as a day of Humanist celebration.

This date was chosen in by the UN General Assembly in 1950 to honor the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Human rights are the rights that all of us have simply because we are human. It also describes the duties we have to other human beings so that their human rights will not be violated.

God loves all human beings equally. Nothing in the Universal Declaration violates any core tenet of Christian doctrine. In contrast, Jesus' demand that we love our neighbor would be fulfilled if we obeyed everything in the Universal Declaration. Christians, therefore, ought to take the Universal Declaration into consideration in both their public and private actions.

This International Human Rights Day is dedicated to the Chinese protesters who gathered yesterday at the foreign ministry to demand redress for violations of their human rights. Many of them were arrested, as BBC reports.

Some sought justice for dead relatives, and they carried photographs of their family members; others gave out details of land disputes, illegal detentions and incidents of local corruption.

Yang Guiyin, a middle-aged woman from Shanxi, told the Associated Press that her land had been taken away four years ago for development, and she had still not received any compensation.

"Today is human rights day, but there are no human rights in China. I want my land, I want to eat," she said.

"I came here because I want to have justice for my family," 53-year-old Wu Zhongbao told the French news agency AFP.

Mr Wu claims his mother was beaten to death by police when their home in Jiangsu was forcefully demolished - a charge denied by the authorities there.

The police arrived quickly to stem the protest, cordoning off the demonstrators and later flagging down a public bus to take them away.

China has detained several activists in the run-up to the anniversary of the UN rights declaration.

Liu Xiaobo, famous for his role in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, was taken away on Monday evening, and other dissidents including Zhang Zuhua, Chen Xi and Shen Youlian have also been detained in recent days.

Mr Liu had signed Charter 08, an online letter calling for democracy in China, timed to coincide with the anniversary.

Prayers for those arrested, that China will continue to improve its respect for human rights, and that Western political leaders will stop using human rights as a cynical tool to advance their own agendas.

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