As International Human Rights Day is commemorated on December 10th, members of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) commend the framework for legal accountability for violations of the God-given dignity of every human being that international human rights law embodies. The EAA calls for a dialogue particularly addressing the links between theology, human rights and HIV, within the faith community and with key partners in the response to the AIDS pandemic.
“The international legal framework is the best available tool for seeking justice for the victims of human rights violations,” notes Rev. Malcolm Damon, Director of the Economic Justice Network of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, “but at the same time we are aware that in different parts of the world, and among some religious communities, human rights are still viewed negatively as imposed values.”
Peter Prove, EAA Executive Director, says that, “There is some potential for reframing the conversation by, for instance, speaking of God-given human dignity as a central value for so many faith communities. However, that doesn’t solve the problem of how we can best relate to the body of law and practice articulated under the rubric of ‘human rights’.”
The EAA recognizes that religious communities are themselves too often responsible for exclusion and stigmatization, rather than for the inclusion and non-discrimination that both fundamental faith values and human rights principles demand.
Rev. Dr Richard Fee, EAA Board Chair and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, reaffirmed EAA members’ shared commitment to advocacy for justice and human dignity. “As Christians, we are called to reach out to all of humanity and to create an inclusive community of mutual support and love, enabling every person to have abundant life.”
The EAA’s current campaigns on HIV and AIDS (“Live the Promise”) and food and agriculture (“Food for Life”), both apply a human rights lens to the issues – focusing on the situations of the most vulnerable, the poorest and the most marginalized. As retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno of the Philippines remarked in a recent address to the 23rd General Convention of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a country “cannot claim to be a real democracy until and unless we are able to give real equality to the disadvantaged sectors of our society.”
The EAA will explore how to engage its members and partners further in a dialogue on human rights and faith, hoping to build on the power of both for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.
According to EAA Executive Director Prove, “We must use the tools offered by human rights law to be more effective advocates for human dignity, and better witnesses to Christ’s compassion and justice.”
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