Monday, 10 December 2007

International Human Rights Day

December 10th is international human rights day, a reminder that human beings everywhere deserve to be treated with equity, dignity and justice. This year the anniversary begins a year-long commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the declaration, in which, as John Nurser has shown, the World Council of Churches (in formation) and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs played a key role. Many campaigning organisations will observe the day and there are also quite a few liturgies lurking out there on the web and they can be adapted for local use. The photo is from my recent visit to the Red Cross museum here in Geneva.
This day comes at a good point on the Advent pilgrimage as we meditate on John the Baptist inviting us to prepare the the way and then consider how his prophetic voice was put to death to satisfy the vanity of a despotic ruler. Archbishop John Sentamu's clear message on human rights in Zimbabwe yesterday shows just how important it is to remain vigilant and keep campaigning.
The Swiss section of ACAT is calling for an end to violence against women and campaigning in particular against the trafficking of women. The French section of ACAT is encouraging members to sign a petition in support of protesters in Burma who have been arrested. Reporters without borders are protesting against imprisoned journalists. The French section of Amnesty International uses the date to launch their annual campaign in favour of those who try to defend human rights particularly in China, Colombia, Russia, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Amnesty UK is organising a poems from Guantanamo reading on December 12th. You can buy multilingual liberty candles from the Swiss amnesty section and also look at their brilliant award-winning poster campaign, various images from it are available here, the caption reads, "This is happening, not here but now".
In France, which sees itself to some extent as the origin of what they still insist on calling "les droits de l'homme" many organisations will be marking the day. Unlike in the UK, politicians here would make the reverse of political capital by publicly criticising human rights legislation, unless of course they are called Jean-Marie le Pen.
For me the day is a good opportunity to see what Amnesty, ACAT or other local human rights groups are doing and to at long last get around to getting involved. Surely amongst all those Christmas cards we're all sending there should be time too to send some letters supporting prisoners of conscience? See what's going on in your area that you can get involved in.
And finally, the following prayer extract comes from the the Rabbis for Human rights website,
"I light this flame of Hanukkah remembering the time when my people were oppressed because of their faith ... As I celebrate the light of freedom today, I pray that I and my fellow citizens shall not be the source of suffering in others, never persecute others because of their faith, never torture others, never be the instrument of hate. May we all be sources of light in the world, not of darkness."