Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 3, 2008
Human rights belong to each and every one
The Catholic Church defends the defenseless, speaks for the voiceless
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
One of the best known Chinese pro-democracy and human rights activists is Wei Jingsheng.
He was such a thorn in the side of communist dictators of the People’s Republic of China that in 1979 he was arrested and jailed for “counter revolution propaganda and agitation.”
After a total of 18 years in prison, Wei was released from jail in 1997, and deported to America. In early 1998, he issued a joint statement with Amnesty International in which he spoke about universal human rights that people innately possess:
“Human rights have already been accepted globally as a standard of conduct. . . . Even autocratic countries, even those countries where slavery is practiced, have to pay lip service to the acceptance and respect of human rights principles.
“(This attitude) creates favourable conditions for those who fight for human rights, freedom and democracy, and gives the people who suffer persecution growing encouragement to fight for the rights which originally belong to them. … Those rights which originally belong to the people have been taken away by the oppressors.”
And now . . . ?
It has been exactly a decade since Wei issued his eloquent statement. I wonder if he still believes those blazing words and what they imply.
Is there a certain age at which these rights begin or an advanced age at which they are lost? Do some people enjoy these rights (whatever they might be) while others do not?
Do these “original rights” only exist in this generation or have they existed throughout the ages — regardless of what any government or court declared?
Although Wei spoke about human rights as they apply to Chinese people suffering under a communist regime, parallels can be drawn to “original rights” denied by oppressors of other members of the human community.
We know Wei was speaking about rights that belong to everyone because he spoke about them in a global context. We know that these rights belong to children because these rights people had “originally” – from the beginning.
Could it be that “original rights” are the possession of each and every individual human being from their beginning?
Could it be that such rights might stem from the same origins that utterly convinced abolitionists slavery must end, or those who fought against child labour in England?
I am alluding to some sort of law or standard of behaviour or conduct defining right and wrong written deep within humanity’s heart that was originally there throughout the centuries.
Regardless of whether Wei was aware of it, he was touching upon the same truth previous generations understood and spoke about as God’s law written on the hearts of humanity, dating back into antiquity.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of it, St. Paul spoke of it in his letter to the Romans. The author of the Book of Hebrews spoke of God’s law in the hearts and minds of people.
Wei Jinsheng mentioned in his statement that “human rights have already been accepted globally as a standard of conduct.” He spoke about these human rights being innate to all humanity.
The oppressors are oppressing something that is inalienable to the oppressed.
In North America, the most glaring example of original rights being violated and taken away is in the area of abortion. The original right to life of millions of unborn children have been systematically taken away from them, with the full endorsement of the state.
Abortion is a crime against humanity. Civilized and compassionate societies that truly believe in universal human rights must be supportive to women in crisis pregnancies so they are apt to give life to their babies.
We are still left with a dilemma: Who or what bestows universal human rights that were originally endowed to all humanity? Great human rights documents like the American Declaration of Independence say that inalienable human rights are endowed to humanity by their Creator: God. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes “the Supremacy of God”— a lawgiver.
Who is this God? I mentioned America and Canada. Both countries have their legal roots in British Common Law and Common Law has Christianity at its base. This is plain historical record.
In 1829, Joseph Storey stated in his inaugural address as Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University, “There has never been a period in which Common Law did not recognize Christianity as laying at its foundation.”
Sir Francis Hale said, “Christianity is part of the Common Law of England.” Christ is behind Christianity. Christianity is at the foundation of British Common Law. Rights that were originally there, as inalienable, come from God, not legislatures or courts — however supreme they may be.
The Catholic Church has a long history defending the defenseless, advocating for the voiceless. Throughout the ages, Catholicism has defended what Wei called “original rights.” We must not stop. The oppressors are still on the prowl.
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