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Nelson Mandela once said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” This quote is a powerful tool that can help one analyze and understand the severity of failing to guard the rights of their neighbours. When one person forcibly removes or denies another of their God-given rights, they are taking away that persons freedom, and ultimately committing a sin against God. The purpose of this essay is to prove how failing to protect and respect others rights is detrimental to ones relationship with God. Through examining some of the basic human rights in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and various Sacred Scriptures, one can come to understand the importance of human rights and their correlation with the Catholic Faith.
On December 10th 1948, the United Nations established a very important document known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations 1). This document was written shortly after the second World War in an effort to secure the rights that belong to all people. Although this document proved to be somewhat successful in bringing peace and harmony amongst people, remains an abundance of unjust acts taking place in the world. The official teaching of the Catholic Church has acknowledged the positive value of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Pope John Paul II declared it to be, “A true milestone on the path of humanity’s moral progress.” (Doctrine of the Church, 152).
Although an agreement can be made upon the multiple benefits of this document, there still remains an abundance of violations against human rights that decrease the moral standings of those who preform such acts and those who chose to simply look away when these acts are being committed. The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ” 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” (United Nations, 1). However there are around twenty-two thousand children that die everyday due to poverty related causes (Shah, 6). How is it that over one hundred and thirty-three million pounds of food are carelessly discarded every year in the United States of America while thousands of children are suffering worldwide due to malnutrition (Obradovich 4)?
This valued document states individual rights yet it can not ensure that everyones rights are protected, which is why there are numerous lives that are taken due to the careless negligence of those who choose to turn a blind eye to the individuals whose rights are being stolen everyday. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a tool that can help one understand some of the basic human rights, however one must go beyond simply informing themselves on what human rights are. Once these rights have been read and understood, the value of human rights and their importance must be taken into consideration when making a moral decision to stand-up for those whose rights have been stolen.
It is imperative that one recognizes the value of human rights in order to preserve them for others and strengthen ones relationship with God. “The movement towards the identification and proclamation of human rights is one of the most significant attempts to respond effectively to the inescapable demands of human dignity” (Doctrine of the Church, 152). In this excerpt from the Church’s Magisterium, one can find that the Church directly connects human rights to human dignity. One must first identify their rights and those that belong to every individual in order to do everything in their power to protect their rights and those of other individuals. It is in doing this that one can make a positive change in others lives and fulfill their needs for human dignity. Too often, people place others needs aside while they search for wealth and materialistic possessions, however one must pay specific attention to those living in developing countries.
Ailments, crop failures, natural disasters, violence and corrupt governments continuously decrease the development of these countries and their people from joining the rest of humanity on an even playing field (The Family and Human Rights, 56). Everyday millions of children and adults are suffering in the global community and in order to provide the necessary aid, citizens of the first world must know the value of human rights and the worth of a human life to stand up for people in poor living conditions and fight for their rights.
In an article written by David Hollenbach, he states that “It is striking how strongly the new Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church affirms the Catholic Church’s commitment to human rights as moral standards to which all nations and cultures should be held accountable” (Hollenbach 3). This excerpt of the article highlights the importance of everyone of every individual abiding, protecting and being held accountable for ones rights and the rights of others. Rights are not only statements that are placed as suggestions for people, they must be followed and respected by everyone living in every part of the world. “There rights are ‘universal, inviolable, inalienable'” (Doctrine of the Church, 153).
These rights are present in everyone regardless of age, gender, race and religious beliefs. It would be useless to proclaim human rights if they were not being respected and protected by all people, for all people. Lastly, No one has the right to deny another of their rights as this would violate their very dignity and nature. It is evident that human rights are extremely valuable and are common amongst all people. Once one has learned about what the basic human rights are and their importance, then they must be applied into ones everyday life to help ensure that the rights are being practiced, but more importantly, that others rights are being defended.
There exists a positive correlation between The Catholic Church’s teachings and Human Rights. When one is violated, the other also suffers the negative effects and ones relationship with God is harmed. A section in the article written by David Hollenbach states, “Like earlier church documents, the compendium grounds the link between Christian faith and human rights in the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God” (Hollenbach, 7). This is emphasizing how everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, and is deserving of dignity and respect. Failing to safeguard ones rights is equivalent to denying said person of his or her humanity.
David also states, “Consequently, the church’s work in support of human rights is essentially connected to its mission to proclaim the Gospel” (Hollenbach 4). Promoting and protecting the rights of all God’s people is viewed as a moral act and anything done to counteract the progress of human rights is seen as an act against God in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Human rights is directly linked to the vocation of every Christian and the Church’s mission. (Council for the Family, 32). It is every Christian’s moral duty to promote peace amongst people and to protect not just ones own, but everyones rights. There is a clear crossover between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; that outlines everyones individual rights and freedoms, and Christian ethics even though there is no direct reference to God in the document.
This is due to the fact that the articles and rights presented in this document are based on humanity’s common conscience (The Family and Human Rights, 2). Through acts of Christian service, one can grow a deep appreciation for the other and an understanding of ones duty as a Catholic citizen to help others that cannot help themselves. These acts help one grow closer to God because they act in accordance with the Catholic moral duty to help the other. All in all, there is a clear link between human rights and the duty of every Catholic citizen to ensure that every persons rights are being protected. When one person directly or indirectly neglects a persons rights, they are disobeying God and therefore, committing a sin against Him.
Every individual, regardless or age, race, gender or religious beliefs has certain rights and freedoms that pertain to them from the moment of conception. It is ones moral duty to protect others’ rights and ensure that everyone is leading a life of fairness and equality. Through analyzing the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights, it is clear that human rights are crucial in an attempt to create a peaceful world and a happy relationship with God. It is also important that one values the necessity of human rights in order for that individual to do everything in their power to safeguard the rights of others. One can clearly identify the relationship between human rights and the Catholic Church when looking at various Catholic documents as they both relate to the basic common conscience of humanity. With the use of this information, it is necessary that one protects their rights and the rights of other individuals in order to grow a healthy relationship with God.
“Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.” Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
Hollenbach, David. “Human rights in Catholic thought: a new synthesis.” America 31 Oct. 2005: 16. Gale Power Search. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
Shah, Anup. “Poverty Facts and Stats.” Global Issues. 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. .
“The Family and the Human Rights.” The Family and Human Rights. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2014. .
Obradovich, Kathie. “Throwing Away Food Fuels Climate Change.” Des Moines Register 23 May 2014: n. pag. Des Moines Register. Web. 23 May 2014.