NEW YORK – Human Rights Day has been observed on December 10 since 1950. The day commemorates the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights two years earlier.
Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, in part,
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
That foundational statement echoes the most well-known section of the United States Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The National Assembly of France issued a less familiar document, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, in 1789. Although different, its intent and contents are similar, declaring that
“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights … Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights harmonizes with the statement that
“All human beings … should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
It is well and good that we recognize that all human beings are born free and equal. It is quite another that we also recognize that we are all born with the responsibility to allow and assure others within our sphere of influence that we recognize their rights as well.
A proper understanding of the issue is that human rights deals with equal opportunities, not equal outcomes.
Governments have a responsibility to create and enforce laws that protect the rights of their citizens. Individuals have a responsibility to respect those rights.
When governments and individuals accept and actualize their responsibilities, “the rights of every individual everywhere, without distinction” (UNDHR) will be guaranteed.
Ultimately, respect for human rights comes down to recognizing that every other person in the world has value and deserves to be treated with dignity.
Institutions may issue decrees. Governments may enact legislation. However, the assurance of human rights will only occur when, once-and-for-all, individuals are willing to respect the God-given rights of others.
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