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The growth of human rights is an evolving story

World Human Rights Day, December 10

Dear Sir,

Every year in the month of December, numerous jurisdictions worldwide observe “Human Rights Day”. This coming year marks the 75th anniversary of Human Rights Day.

History shows that the first mention and attempt to secure one’s rights can be traced back to the year 2300 BC, more than 4,000 years ago!

It all started with a Pharoah of Egypt listening to a peasant who had been granted an audience. This peasant was making a plea for the protection of his “personal rights”. Translators of historical written records were so impressed with the man’s fervour that they dubbed him the “Eloquent Peasant”.

In many societies the establishment of “human rights” concentrates on combatting discrimination. It was as recent as 1948 that the United Nations Organisation passed –without a dissenting vote – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Baha’i Faith, the world’s newest global religion, says that the primary purpose, the basic objective, in laying down powerful laws and setting up great principles and institutions dealing with every aspect of civilisation, is human happiness; and human happiness consists only in drawing closer to the threshold of Almighty God, and in securing the peace and well-being of each and every individual member of the human race.

The basic premise of human rights can be considered to be justice.

There are some people who have said they are against discrimination of all kinds. It is a thought that such a sentiment may be too inclusive. It can be argued that there are some forms of discrimination that are not only practised in law, but also are generally accepted. It is no doubt safe to say that discrimination based on race, and/or gender would all find opposition. But, even here in Bermuda, discrimination based on age and nationality is not only legal, but also fully acceptable. We have evidence of such practices staring us in the face each and every day.

In his book “Baha’i Focus on Human Rights”, author Philip Hainsworth offers this growing trend of “Human Rights” gaining more and more recognition:

“The ‘eloquent peasant’ appealing to his Pharoah; the repeated admonitions of the prophets of Israel; the emphasis given by Jesus Christ to the supreme worth of the individual; the work of the Justinian in the 6th century of the Christian era; the legislation providing for the rights of women by the Prophet Muhammad; the revival of Roman Law in the 12th century; the Magna Carta of 1215; the Habeas Corpus Act and the Bill of Rights in 1639 and 1689 in England; the legislation enacted in France, the United States of America, and Great Britain in the 18th century relating to the abolition of slavery, the extension of the vote to adult males, free and compulsory elementary education, work in factories and the legal status of trade unions, are but a few of the well-documented milestones in the 4,000 year story of the gradually awakening awareness that all persons have rights which need to be recognised and upheld by law.”

The exercised freedoms we have come with responsibilities; our human rights are accompanied by obligations. To ensure that everyone’s human rights are respected, we all have the obligation to respect and help one another in every way. All of this cannot happen in the blink of an eye – it is an evolving process. It has taken some 4,000 years to reach the level of human rights we have today, but hopefully it will not take another four millennia to achieve the ultimate level.

Human Rights Day is observed, in various ways, in December. Let us pause a moment and consider if we individually recognise and respect our fellow residents’ human rights every day. Think of it this way: if we do not recognise and respect the next person’s human rights, how can we reasonably expect that person to recognise and respect our human rights – a fact of our life that we cherish dearly? Let’s make the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a whole year of recognising and respecting each other’s human rights.


Smith’s Parish

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Published December 13, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated December 12, 2022 at 9:43 pm)

The growth of human rights is an evolving story

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