Human Rights, justice and oneness of humanity

  • 6 December, 2018

By Flora Teckie - A Bahá'Í Perspective

We will be celebrating Human Rights Day on 10 December, honouring the United Nation’s adoption on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Over the last few decades, a greater understanding has emerged towards the recognition and protection of human rights internationally, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations, and other international treaties and conventions inspired by this Declaration are all significant steps. However, there is need for better emphasis and more endeavours towards achieving the objectives of this noble undertaking.

The enforcement of the noble principles included in the Declaration of Human Rights, in the Bahá'í view, requires belief in the oneness of humanity and justice towards all – regardless of race, nationality, ethnic background, religion or gender.

Human rights has come into general use, only since the promulgation of the United Nations Charter in l945 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights three years later.  Long before that – almost 80 years before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Bahá’u’lláh called for adoption of an equal standard of human rights for all. According to His teachings: “an equal standard of human rights must be recognized and adopted. In the estimation of God all men are equal; there is no distinction or preferment for any soul in the dominion of His justice and equity”.

Human rights must be recognized and protected within the family and society, locally, nationally and internationally, if peace, social progress and economic prosperity are to be established.

Conscious belief in the oneness of humanity

Efforts towards enforcing international human rights norms would only succeed through a conscious belief in the principle of oneness of humanity.  The recognition of the oneness of humankind, in the Bahá'í view, gives rise to an elevated concept of human rights, one that includes the assurance of dignity for each person and the realization of each individual’s potential. This view differs obviously from current approach to human rights, which is limited to preventing interference with the individual's freedom of action.

The principle of oneness of mankind is closely related to and is a prerequisite for establishment of justice, and justice is a prerequisite for enforcing human rights and peace.  Moral virtues, such as justice and fairness, honesty and trustworthiness, courtesy and cooperation, lead to respect for the rights of others.

Justice must be equally applied to everyone: no matter from what nationality, race, religion or ethnic background they may be.  At the same time, there is need for a new more just world order that would promote an atmosphere of international cooperation founded on the mutual interests of mankind.

World unity requires universal respect for human rights and commitment to human rights results from recognition of the oneness of humanity.  Such recognition requires the abandonment of prejudices of every kind – race, class, colour, creed, nation, gender, degree of material wealth – everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.

Universal human rights and responsibilities towards humanity

The notion of "universal" human rights implies a responsibility to humanity as a whole. We all have important roles and responsibilities towards implementing human rights.

“[T]he source of human rights” according to a statement of the Bahá’í International Community “is the endowment of qualities, virtues and powers which God has bestowed upon mankind without discrimination of sex, race, creed or nation”, and that “to fulfil the possibilities of this divine endowment is the purpose of human existence”, and that “Everyone, individually as well as in association with others, has the right and responsibility to promote the well-being, and respect for the rights, freedoms, identity and human dignity, of all other members of his or her local and national communities, as well as the international community, and to promote the well-being and respect for the identity of these communities as a whole”.

Children need to be taught from young ages to cooperate with one another and understand and respect each other’s rights. Considering that rights are inseparable from responsibilities, education for human rights should emphasize the responsibility of each member of society to uphold the rights of the other members, based on recognition of their unity and interdependence.

 “… education in fundamental human rights” in the words of the Bahá'í International Community, “sensitizes individuals to the rights of others. It encourages each person to develop a personal commitment to building a broader sense of community. Such education is necessary not only to ensure that knowledge of human rights will be disseminated generally, but also to help build a durable, supportive social order in which human rights are a day-to-day reality for every individual”.

The obligation and right to live in a moral society has become crucial.  It is also important that moral and social laws blend and unify humanity as a whole.  Every one of us has an important role and responsibility towards implementing fundamental human rights. When individuals assume responsibility for ensuring each other's human rights, this can empower all members of our society and give them a new sense of purpose and dignity in life.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger