As the date of Dec. 10 approaches, I take a moment and reflect why a person of faith, any faith, might want to pay attention to the history of this date.
In 1948 on this date, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Today many recognize Human Rights Day. There are many differences among the many faiths in our country and the world, but there is one important commonality; that all humans have dignity and worth. In 1945, when the UN was created, its charter affirmed this.
Unitarian Universalism is a convenantal religious tradition grounded in Judeo/Christian heritage. Our beliefs are based on a covenant rather than a creed or doctrine, which we put into practice with our 7 Principles in mind and heart.
The first of these principles is to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I was practicing my faith earlier this year when I organized a showing of the short film, “Ending U.S. Sponsored Torture Forever,” distributed by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). The interfaith group that gathered to view the DVD discussed the moral implications of torture for people of faith. Human Rights Day is again an opportunity to live my faith and bring awareness to the moral implications of torture and other human right issues. If we practice our faith by treating others as we would like be treated, how can we embrace the idea of torture?
Most religious traditions share an understanding that all individuals are created in the image of God, and are therefore endowed with a basic dignity. We must be constant in our defense of each individual’s humanity, dignity and honor. As people of faith we are called to compassion, to not only care for others when they are degraded or hurt, but to take action. We must stand for, and with those who are abused, oppressed and vulnerable. It is how we practice our faith.
Martin Luther King once noted, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” People of faith are called to pursue justice to assure all people are treated fairly. We are also called to hospitality and to welcome those who are marginalized. Many people of diverse faiths share these ethical principles and are working towards an end to U.S.-sponsored torture.
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has a campaign called “Standing on the Side of Love.” Their website states the campaign “seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression.” The campaign grew out of the outpouring of love shown after the 2008 shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. It has since gained momentum to stand on the side of love, instead of fear, to stop oppression, exclusion, and violence wherever it is happening. This certainly includes torture, but also standing with those who have been ostracized and perceived as other. We honor the creation when we love our neighbors as ourselves and welcome the stranger. This season our focus turns toward charity and goodwill to all. For people of faith, hospitality is central to spiritual life. I think of this when reading or hearing about the issues surrounding our immigration system. There is little doubt that it is broken. The solution is not simple, but I can think of no better way than to stand on the side of love, and offer refuge to weary travelers, not turn them away because there is no room at the inn.
The recognition of Human Rights Day is for me, as a person of faith, a small way to live my values based on my religious choice. I stand today, on the side of love, to honor those who have given their life in order to secure that freedom. My prayer will be that healing will overcome brokenness, hope will overcome fear, and action will overcome despair. May it be so and may all be blessed in love.
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