A genuine commitment to Human Rights
On March 21st we will be celebrating the Human Rights Day. A genuine commitment to human rights, in the Bahá’í view, results from recognition of the oneness of humanity. Such recognition requires abandonment of prejudice of every kind –race, class, colour, creed, nation, sex, degree of material civilization – anything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.
The recognition of the oneness of humanity 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 in many parts of the world, which is limited to preventing interference with the individual’s freedom of action.
Respect for human rights, in the Bahá’í view, will be strengthened through recognition of two basic concepts: First, that human rights are God-given rights and secondly, a consciousness of the organic oneness of the human race.
The principle of oneness of mankind is closely related to, and is a prerequisite for, the establishment of justice. In order for justice to prevail every member of society should respect and protect the rights of the other members of society. 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.
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.
Rights and corresponding responsibilities
Each member of community has a responsibility to uphold the rights of the other members. Human rights can be established when we realize that the gift of life obligates us to meet responsibilities we have towards God, towards society and ourselves.
Each right is attached to a corresponding responsibility. For example, the right to be recognized equally before the law implies the responsibility to obey the law. Likewise, the right to marry carries with it the responsibility to support the family unit, to educate one’s children and to treat all family members with respect.
The right to work cannot be divorced from the responsibility to perform one’s duties to the best of one’s ability. In the broadest sense, the notion of “universal” human rights implies a responsibility to humanity as a whole.
“The 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. To fulfil the possibilities of this divine endowment is the purpose of human existence.
” “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.”
We all can play an important role 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.
As stated in the Bahá’í writings: “And the honour and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.
Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men?”
Social and spiritual progress should keep pace with technological advancement
Rapid development of science and technology in the world today has outstripped the rate of social progress and moral and spiritual development.
As a result we observe that as old methods and forms of human rights violation gradually disappear, new forms of violation emerge. For example institutionalised slavery has effectively been abolished in the world. But various forms of economic exploitation have replaced it.
Therefore, social progress and moral and spiritual development should keep pace with scientific and technological advancement, if the violation of human rights is to be effectively addressed.
Education in fundamental human rights and responsibilities is crucial; as such education sensitizes us to our own rights as well as the rights of others. Governments, the non-governmental organizations and religious organizations in particular, should consider ways of instilling an awareness of human rights, human unity, and responsibilities towards others.
Children, from a young age should be taught the value of human life, of personal integrity, of ethical and moral concern for the world and of respecting the rights of others.
They should be taught about their own rights and liberties, at the same time that they are being taught to respect and protect the human rights and liberties of others.
Maintaining peace, and avoiding wars and other major conflicts on our planet, are our main concerns of today. Peace is closely related to justice and observance of human rights. It is the requirement of justice that every one is treated equally and with dignity.
If each person takes responsibility and positive action whenever and wherever human rights violations occur, and be active in the promotion of the rights of others, this would create a co-operative environment for the prospering of rights.
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