Defending human rights and dignity affirmed as a core religious duty

By agency reporter
October 27, 2012

Participants in a World Council of Churches (WCC) human rights training event in Bangkok, Thailand have affirmed that defending “rights and dignity of the voiceless, persecuted, socially marginalised and alienated is the responsibility of all God’s people.”

The training focused on ecumenical advocacy for human rights, which took place from 21 to 25 October 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Organised by the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the training was attended by thirty church workers and human rights advocates from ecumenical networks in Asia.

The participants stressed that an “underlying characteristic of the concept of ‘kingdom of God’ is its universality, and this new framework promoted by Jesus affirms the values of upholding the universal human dignity and human rights of all God’s people.”

The participants also agreed that civil society, churches and ecumenical organisations in diverse contexts need to play a vital role in defending human rights. This advocacy, they said, should focus on “people deprived of their human dignity and human rights by powers of evil”.

“Many Asian countries face a senseless, lawless and violence-affected situation. People are losing a sense of direction in life due to a deteriorating situation where human rights and human dignity are constantly violated,” said Basil J. Fernando, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, while participating in the training.

Fernando stressed that a “free and democratic society cannot emerge through spontaneous revolution, but it can be achieved only through a gradual evolution of public opinion and values”.

“Asia needs a new politico-social paradigm which sensitises the people to defend their human rights. The churches and the ecumenical movement in this context should contribute to efforts by various actors in upholding the value of respect for human dignity,” he added.

The training explored several aspects of ecumenical advocacy including human rights violations happening due to the deteriorating rule of law, democratic governance and growing militarisation. Among other themes were denial of freedom of religion, rights of religious minorities, and the lack of protective mechanisms especially in the case of rights of women and children.

The training also discussed how churches and the ecumenical community can be engaged in human rights advocacy at the global level, especially through United Nations human rights protection mechanisms.


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