The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Human rights and the image of God

with one comment

Jim Wallis quotes the Pope’s U.N. speech:

The life of the community, both domestically and internationally, clearly demonstrates that respect for rights, and the guarantees that follow from them, are measures of the common good that serve to evaluate the relationship between justice and injustice, development and poverty, security and conflict.

I hear it this way: “Human rights” is a measure of the morality of our world.

The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security.

Promoting human rights = improved worldwide security. Imagine, say, Israel and Palestine, and how different American policy would be toward them if human rights were the goal.

Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace.

Those places where tragedy is epidemic are easily abused. Their people, in turn, are more likely to become abusers. Palestine comes to mind, again.

… a vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help to achieve this, since recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favours conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism and war, and to promote justice and peace.

And we who follow faiths that see every human as created in God’s image, and precious, must bring that commitment to the arena of world policy. What would that look like?

Indeed, questions of security, development goals, reduction of local and global inequalities, protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate, require all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law […]

Acting jointly, and within the law (remember, this is a speech to the United Nations, and he’s tweaking the U.S.) But watch where he goes next:

and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet.

Oho! That’s quite a thought. Being one with the poorest. Where have I heard that before?

I am thinking especially of those countries in Africa and other parts of the world which remain on the margins of authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalization. In the context of international relations, it is necessary to recognize the higher role played by rules and structures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good, and therefore to safeguard human freedom.

As Wallis comments:

That is the heart of the issue. It is always the “least of these”- the poorest and must vulnerable – who test our commitment [to the essence of our faiths]. Those who are the left out and forgotten are those whose human rights must be protected by international bodies and international law […]

Now this is faith as it’s meant to be. For it challenges the idea that a government’s first responsibility is its own good. It calls government to a higher view – one that Christians far too easily abandon – that says the purpose of law is to protect the weakest from predation by those stronger.

Big “gubmint” or small “gubmint;” free markets or regulation; all these are moot points when considered apart from the protection of the weakest. They have, from a Christian perspective, no inherent value, one over the other.

The question is “what best secures the dignity of the weakest of our world?” For we who are Christians are taught that serving them is serving God.

Perhaps our passion for their well-being, then, is a telling reflection of our commitment to our own faith.


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Written by Monte

May 1, 2008 at 2:56 pm

One Response

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  1. Imagine, say, Israel and Palestine, and how different American policy would be toward them if human rights were the goal.

    I have. Don’t read this link, unless you are willing to be disillusioned.

    Solomon2

    May 6, 2008 at 9:57 pm


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