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That they might have life

On December 10, the world marks the 70th anniversary of United Nations (UN) Human Rights Day. It was on this day, in 1948, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pope Francis, in a letter published on November 15, remarked that the anniversary date is an opportunity to celebrate not only the signing of the declaration, but to reflect on the “the development of the vision of human rights in the modern world.”
 
Many a nation has been tested with the challenge of shrinking space for exercising civil and political rights due to repression and extra-judicial killing of civilians—including innocent children—by government agencies. Although a vast majority of nations believe in democracy and rule of law, the rights of the individual seem to be a privilege of the few. Therefore, concern for human rights is central to many of the contemporary world’s most important challenges. 
 
The Church in recent times identified a more acute ideological warfare which, although fought in the name of human rights, has become a universal phenomenon and threatens the very fundamental rights of the individual. Hence, Pope Francis raises caution in his letter  that over the years “the interpretation of some rights has progressively been modified, to the point of including a multiplicity of ‘new rights,’ not infrequently in contradiction with one another.” 
 
In the first place, there is ‘The right to life’ contained in Article 3 of the Declaration of 1948. It is the true basis of all human rights, for it comes from the law of God. The Church’s mission in this world is to defend this right. Hence, the Church cannot have a different stand on issues such as abortion and the death penalty. Ironically, many acclaimed defenders of human rights in the world have legalised abortion as a right of the individual! The death penalty prevails as part of the legal system. 
 
Surging crises of migrants and refugees have divided the world and the so-called champions of human rights are seen busy building walls and exiting from the world stage to “protect” the interests of their own nations and their people! Here too the Church has taken a different stand from the rest of the world. 
 
Pope Francis has shown us a new way to promote the rights of the poor and the marginalised. The Holy See, through the Permanent Missions in the United Nations in New York with regard to migrants, and in Geneva regarding refugees, continues to offer its active contribution, promoting the vision of Pope Francis, centred around four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. During his apostolic journeys the pope has unfailingly stressed the urgency of caring those who are forced to flee from their own countries due to war and persecution, as well as out of hunger and economic hardship.
 
The secretary general of the United nations, António Guterres, has appealled to the people “everywhere to stand up for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural — and for the values that underpin our hopes for a fairer, safer and better world for all.” 
 
This is an appropriate time to remind ourselves of the inalienable social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights and freedoms. Human rights is the contemporary language for embracing, and the modern means of achieving, respect and dignity for all. “I come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly!” jose