Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 10: International human rights day

The following bulletin is distributed by our colleagues at Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement.

PRAY: A prayer for human rights
from the Education for Justice site

God of Justice,
You have given all of your children
human dignity and human rights.
Help us recognize the dignity and the rights
of all of human kind.
Open our hearts to hear your teachings,
open our eyes to the suffering
of those who are denied
their basic economic, social, political and social rights.
Let our voices join in declaring
all humanity is sacred, all human rights must be respected.


STUDY: Reflecting on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
By Madeline Labriola, Pax Christi International NGO delegate to the UN

On December 10, 2012, the United Nations will observe the International Day for Human Rights, celebrating the day 64 years ago when member nations of the newly formed United Nations signed into International Law the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It was a struggle for the writers to include the many rights and privileges that we believe are part of the unalienable rights of every global citizen.  Eleanor Roosevelt led the delegation in purpose and positive attitude to the final draft of the document. Here, in summary form, are the rights, which the United Nations guarantees to every person on the globe.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

All People...

Are born free and should all be treated in the same way. Are equal despite difference in race, sex, language, etc.  Have the right to life and to live in freedom and safety.

Should be free from slavery. Should not be subjected to torture. Have the right to be recognized before the law. Have the right to be treated equally before the law. Have the right to ask for legal help when their rights are not respected. Have the right to not be imprisoned unjustly...

Have the right to a fair trial. Have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Have the right to privacy. Have the right to travel within and to and from their own country
. Have the right to political asylum
. Have the right to a nationality
. Have the right to marry
. Have the right to own property
. Have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
. Have the right to freedom of opinion and expression
. Have the right to meet with others
. Have the right to take part in government matters and to vote
. Have the right to social security (i.e., to have basic needs met). Have the right to work and to join a trade union
. Have the right to rest and leisure
. Have the right to an adequate standard of living and medical help
. Have the right to an education
. Have the right to take part in their community’s cultural life
. Are entitled to a social and international order that can provide these rights. Must respect the rights of others.

As a part of the Pax Christi delegation at the UN, I became a member of the NGO committee on human rights. I learned from meetings with officials from the Human Rights Commission and other activists in the field that at the UN the pursuit of human rights has had its trials and stumbling blocks. Although the document remains signed by all the countries of the world, it is sad but true that it does not mean it is implemented or honored in every country.

Many positive strides have been made to improve the rights of people in many countries, including the U.S., over the past 60 years, but much more work needs to be done. In some cases people are not even aware that they have these rights and so cannot demand them of their government. This is rapidly changing as the world is constantly linked by advanced media technology. In countries where human rights are routinely abused, there are NGOs reporting and calling the world’s attention to these violations.

Click here to read the entire reflection on Pax Christi USA's website.

ACT: Promoting human rights

1. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be inspired by the language and courage of the writers. Teach your children and grandchildren about this document.

2. If you are a teacher, use December 10 as a day to celebrate. Teach the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Choose one human right that you feel strongly about as a focal point.

3. In your local peace group choose the theme of human rights as part of your study section. The plight of our local indigenous people is especially timely. One exciting campaign involving human rights and the environment is occurring in the Ogondogen Nation in New York State. For more information, check out

4. Use the prayer above as part of your opening or closing prayer for justice at your next Pax Christi meeting or other gathering. You can also read a statement written in 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, endorsed by Pax Christi International and other Christian NGOs, expressing their "deep commitment to the fundamental values underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (UDHR)." (PDF attached below.)

Photo by Linda Panetta, Optical Realities