70 Years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the pope considers areas, themes of difficulty
Here are take-aways from Pope Francis’ annual “state of the world” address, which he delivered today, focusing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 70 years ago this year.
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— This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, a conflict that reconfigured the face of Europe and the entire world with the emergence of new states in place of ancient empires. From the ashes of the Great War, we can learn two lessons that, sad to say, humanity did not immediately grasp, leading within the space of twenty years to a new and even more devastating conflict.
The first lesson is that victory never means humiliating a defeated foe. Peace is not built by vaunting the power of the victor over the vanquished. A second lesson: peace is consolidated when nations can discuss matters on equal terms.
Relations between nations, like all human relationships, “must likewise be harmonized in accordance with the dictates of truth, justice, willing cooperation, and freedom”. This entails “the principle that all states are by nature equal in dignity”, as well as the acknowledgment of one another’s rights and the fulfilment of their respective duties. The basic premise of this approach is the recognition of the dignity of the human person, since disregard and contempt for that dignity resulted in barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of mankind.  Indeed, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
— For the Holy See, to speak of human rights means above all to restate the centrality of the human person, willed and created by God in his image and likeness.
— Those rights are premised on the nature objectively shared by the human race.
— [O]ver the years, particularly in the wake of the social upheaval of the 1960s, the interpretation of some rights has progressively changed, with the inclusion of a number of “new rights” that not infrequently conflict with one another. … Somewhat paradoxically, there is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable.
— At a distance of seventy years, it is painful to see how many fundamental rights continue to be violated today. First among all of these is the right of every human person to life, liberty and personal security. It is not only war or violence that infringes these rights.
innocent children discarded even before they are born, unwanted at times simply because they are ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults. the elderly, who are often cast aside, especially when infirm and viewed as a burden. women who repeatedly suffer from violence and oppression, even within their own families. victims of human trafficking, which violates the prohibition of every form of slavery.
— Defending the right to life and physical integrity also means safeguarding the right to health … in the first place, ready access to medical care and treatment on the part of all.
— [S]triving for peace, universally recognized as one of the supreme values to be sought and defended. … For without peace, integral human development becomes unattainable. … Integral disarmament and integral development are intertwined. … In this regard, it is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world. … It is also important for the various peace initiatives aimed at helping Syria to continue,
— The desire for dialogue is also necessary in beloved Iraq, to enable its various ethnic and religious groups to rediscover the path of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence and cooperation. Such is the case too in Yemen and other parts of the region, and in Afghanistan.
— I think in particular of Israelis and Palestinians, in the wake of the tensions of recent weeks. The Holy See, while expressing sorrow for the loss of life in recent clashes, renews its pressing appeal that every initiative be carefully weighed so as to avoid exacerbating hostilities, and calls for a common commitment to respect, in conformity with the relevant United Nations Resolutions, the status quo of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
— I think especially of Venezuela, which is experiencing an increasingly dramatic and unprecedented political and humanitarian crisis.
— Nor can the international community overlook the suffering of many parts of the African continent, especially in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, where the right to life is threatened by the indiscriminate exploitation of resources, terrorism, the proliferation of armed groups and protracted conflicts.
— A shared commitment to rebuilding bridges is also urgent in Ukraine.
— I would like to devote a special thought to families. The right to form a family, as a “natural and fundamental group unit of society… is entitled to protection by society and the state”, and is recognized by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, it is a fact that, especially in the West, the family is considered an obsolete institution. Today fleeting relationships are preferred to the stability of a definitive life project. But a house built on the sand of frail and fickle relationships cannot stand. What is needed instead is a rock on which to build solid foundations. And this rock is precisely that faithful and indissoluble communion of love that joins man and woman, a communion that has an austere and simple beauty, a sacred and inviolable character and a natural role in the social order.
— We are experiencing a true demographic winter! This is a sign of societies that struggle to face the challenges of the present, and thus become ever more fearful of the future, with the result that they close in on themselves.
— The situation of families torn apart by poverty, war and migration. All too often, we see with our own eyes the tragedy of children who, unaccompanied, cross the borders between the south and the north of our world, and often fall victim to human trafficking. Today there is much talk about migrants and migration, at times only for the sake of stirring up primal fears. It must not be forgotten that migration has always existed. … In the Message for this year’s World Day of Peace, I suggested four “mileposts” for action: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.
— Among the human rights that I would also like to mention today is the right to freedom of thought, conscience and of religion, including the freedom to change religion.
— Finally, I wish to recall the importance of the right to employment. There can be no peace or development if individuals are not given the chance to contribute personally by their own labour to the growth of the common good. … On the one hand, we note an inequitable distribution of the work opportunities, while on the other, a tendency to demand of labourers an ever more pressing pace. The demands of profit, dictated by globalization, have led to a progressive reduction of times and days of rest, with the result that a fundamental dimension of life has been lost – that of rest – which serves to regenerate persons not only physically but also spiritually.
— [I]ncrease of child labourers and victims of the new forms of slavery.
— [T]he recognition that every individual also has duties towards the community, for the sake of “meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society”. The just appeal to the rights of each human being must take into account the fact that every individual is part of a greater body.
— [C]aring for our earth. We know that nature can itself be cruel, even apart from human responsibility. We saw this in the past year with the earthquakes that struck different parts of our world, especially those of recent months in Mexico and in Iran, with their high toll of victims, and with the powerful hurricanes that struck different countries of the Caribbean, also reaching the coast of the United States, and, more recently, the Philippines. Even so, one must not downplay the importance of our own responsibility in interaction with nature. Climate changes, with the global rise in temperatures and their devastating effects, are also a consequence of human activity. Hence there is a need to take up, in a united effort, the responsibility of leaving to coming generations a more beautiful and livable world, and to work, in the light of the commitments agreed upon in Paris in 2015, for the reduction of gas emissions that harm the atmosphere and human health.
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