As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness. – Psalm 17:15
Human Rights Day is celebrated each year on December 10th
, which hearkens back to the year 1948 when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This milestone document proclaims the “inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being - regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” This important proclamation was the fruit of a gathering in Paris of leaders from many nations, all seeking to ward off discrimination to create a more just and equitable world.
Human Rights Day each year underscores accountability, reminding us all to look around and notice where inequality, mistreatment, and harm still abound. And then, of course, to determine to right these wrongs. This day is a reckoning of our collective humanity, affirming that my rights and your rights and their rights must all be protected under the law. On this day, we seek to unite for the common good, recognizing that the rights afforded to all are safeguarded by all. On Human Rights Day, we remember our fundamental cohesion as living, breathing, biological, anatomical beings.
All of this is truth before we even get to the religious or spiritual implications of Human Rights Day.
In the Christian tradition, along with many of the great world religions, being human is not just a matter of biology or anatomy, but also the reflection of a divine Creator. Our life and breath is also spiritually-fueled, with a God-given imprint that cannot be taken away. This is described in the Bible as being created in the image of God; beholding the likeness of the very Creator. As such, humans show a glimpse of God-ness; a mirror into a higher power that dwells among the universe.
If these beliefs are held to be true, accountability to care for one another is ratcheted up. Not only must we strive for a just and equitable world for humanitarian reasons, we likewise do so to because every creature images the glory of God. A two-fold refrain must then follow: you are my fellow human; you are my fellow God-bearer. The stakes are raised two-fold for believers and the imperative that all are entitled to rights becomes exceedingly undeniable.
As an Episcopal school, Berkeley claims every human as a child of God who is loved by God. The rights of all are not just a matter of legal obligation, but one of spiritual conviction. We must be kind, forgiving, gentle, loving, and patient with one another. We must look to the image of God reflecting in the other; seeking to love our neighbors as ourselves. These too are inalienable rights as creatures of God.
May we all have the courage to see the humanity in one another, and the hope to see the divine.