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"NOT MUCH TO CELEBRATE ABOUT"
50th Anniversary of Declaration of Human Rights
Bombardment of Human Rights Issues Dulls Conscience
John Paul II: Human Rights, More Than a Declaration
PARIS, DEC 7 (ZENIT).- The international commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights got under way at
UNESCO headquarters in Paris this morning, where French President, Jacques
Chirac, opened the first forum of what will be four days of debates,
activities and events to observe the half century of the signing of this
international document and to discuss the actual state of Human Rights
throughout the world.
Joining U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and High Commissioner for Human
Rights, Mary Robinson, will be numerous heads of state, several recent
Nobel Peace Prize winners and more than 1,000 Human Rights activists from
over 100 countries who will take part in the events.
On Thursday, December 10, the actual anniversary of the document, delegates
and guests will attend a special commemorative ceremony in the Chaillot
Palace where the Declaration was signed in 1948.
During these next few days, numerous parallel activities will accompany the
central festivities and memorial events. Among others, U.N. Secretary
General Kofi Anan will address the French Parliament to speak of Human
Rights and Amnesty International is organizing a music concert over the
weekend with a cast of star-studded, world-renowned performers.
In spite of the festive atmosphere, many delegates remind those present
that there is still a great deal to be accomplished in order to guarantee
the practical implementation of the articles of the Declaration.
In a recent symposium at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, on the
theme of the 50th anniversary, Human Rights' Commissioner, Mary Robinson,
commented that, in the light of so many violations of Human Rights on such
a worldwide scale, "I don't see much to celebrate about." Instead of
promoting celebrations, perhaps "we should reinforce our sense of
solidarity," she concluded.
In fact, even some of the Nobel Peace prize winners will be conspicuous by
their absence. One of them is Aung Sung Suu Kyi (Peace Prize, 1991) --
Democracy leader of Myanmar -- who is restricted in her movements by the
military government there, highlighting just one part of the world where
Human Rights, freedom of expression, association and movement are still not
part of daily life.
BOMBARDMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES DULLS CONSCIENCES
BOMBARDMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES DULLS CONSCIENCES
Giorgio Filibeck, of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
VATICAN CITY, DEC 2 (ZENIT).- On December 10, fifty years ago, the
representatives of fifty governments, as well as eight divisions of the
United Nations, and hundreds of non-governmental agencies, approved the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Five decades later, the fulfillment
of the objectives expressed in that declaration still seems very distant.
ZENIT interviewed Giorgio Filibeck, official of the Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace and expert on human rights issues.
ZENIT: Although it is true that the United Nations Charter has contributed
to awakening human consciousness as regards the rights of man, we constantly
witness systematic violations of these rights. In this twilight zone, how
does the Church assess the situation?
FILIBECK: Unfortunately, although on one hand it is true that over the
last fifty years there has been greater sensitivity on the part of public
opinion regarding offenses committed against the dignity of a person, on the
other hand there seems to be an exactly opposite current, as if consciences
were hardened and incapable of reacting to the massive display of
information and images which relentlessly document the violations of the
rights of man all over the world, but at times have become commonplace in
At this moment in time, special clarity and commitment are necessary to
avoid 'regression' in the area of sensitizing and pressuring for genuine
defense and promotion of human rights. We are faced, yet again, with the
need to educate at a deep level; here the Church can make a significant
contribution, in light of her rich teaching on social issues.
ZENIT: What is the contribution of the Church, and of John Paul II in
particular, to the promotion of human rights?
FILIBECK: The rights of man are based on the dignity of each person: the
proclamation of this dignity is critical to the Christian message. Although
reflection on human dignity has evolved from the early days of the Church,
it is only recently that the pontifical Magisterium has addressed the topic
of the rights of man. In the atmosphere of conflict of the French
Revolution, these rights were seen, sometimes with good reason, as an
instrument against the Church; but, once the immediate historical moment
passed, the connection with the dignity of the person has been restored;
thus human rights have become one of the most important chapters in the
social doctrine of the Church.
John Paul II hoped to offer a synthesized and essential vision of human
rights in the encyclical 'Centesimus Annus' (May 1, 1991). "Among the
principal rights, it is important to single out the right to life, and that
of the child to grow in the mother's womb after conception; the right to
live in a united family in a moral atmosphere favoring the development of
the personality; the right to grow in intelligence and freedom through the
search for, and knowledge of, the truth; the right to work to value the
goods of the earth and to obtain sustenance for oneself and one's loved
ones; the right to create a family, to welcome and educate children, and to
use sex responsibly. Source and synthesis of these rights is, in a certain
sense, religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of
faith and in conformity with the transcendental dignity of the person"
The Holy Father hoped to remind us of human collectivities with rights.
First and foremost among these is the family. Reference should be made to
the Letter on the Rights of the Family, published by the Holy See in October
1983, and the rights of minorities, to which the Pope dedicated the theme of
the World Day for Peace in 1989; human communities, whose rights to
development are stressed in the encyclical 'Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.'
Moreover, John Paul II has paid special attention to the rights of
indigenous peoples, with whose representatives he has met frequently during
his trips. Finally, the Holy Father reminds us of the rights of nations: in
his address to the general assembly of the United Nations on October 5,
1995, he proposed the elaboration of a Charter of Rights of Nations.
ZENIT: In addition to the violations of human rights, we must add the
'Babel of rights.' Many pressure groups invent their own rights according to
their special social needs. We run the risk of not knowing what is meant by
'rights' of man. What is the Church doing in this regard?
FILIBECK: The question certainly highlights the drama of the rights of
man; the image of the 'tower of Babel' of rights is very apt. But, what
rights are we talking about? To answer this question we must have a clear
anthropological profile of the one who has such rights. Too often one hears
with bewilderment the controversial debates which pretend to consecrate a new
'right' to abortion or euthanasia. In 1949, the proclamation of the Universal
Declaration happened thanks to a common conscience that the moral and
material devastation of the Second World War demanded a radical change in
mankind. Today, fifty years later, it is urgent that consciences be awakened
from the 'slumber' that prevails, which could pave the way for new and more
subtle forms of persecution and totalitarianism which, seconded by
technological development could destroy the progress made to date. We need
to reassert the absolute and transcendent value of the human person,
created in the 'image of God' and redeemed by Christ, without any
discriminations. Starting from the principle of human dignity, the
Magisterium of the Church agrees with the United Nations in the definition
of human rights as universal and indivisible.
ZENIT: What is your opinion about the establishment of an International
Tribunal for Human Rights?
FILIBECK: For the time being, I think it would be difficult for such an
entity to be established, given the laborious path in the creation of the
International Penal Court whose statute was adopted by the diplomatic
Conference held in Rome last June and in which the delegation of the Holy
See played an active part. When it begins to operate, this Tribunal will be
competent to handle a long list of "crimes against humanity" in the context
of hostilities directed against civilian populations, flagrant violations of
human rights. According to John Paul II, the international community has
given itself a new institution destined "to watch over the culture of human
rights worldwide" (July 4, 1998).
HUMAN RIGHTS: MORE THAN DECLARATION
HUMAN RIGHTS: MORE THAN DECLARATION
John Paul II Denounces Multiplicity of Violations
VATICAN CITY, DEC 6 (ZENIT).- Solidarity is also a natural right. In fact,
"it is in the realm of solidarity, that a right is expressed which is not an
arbitrary instrument in the hands of the strongest, but a sure means of
justice." John Paul II spoke these words yesterday to the Union of Italian
Catholic Jurists, when he received them in audience on the fiftieth
anniversary of the Union's foundation.
The Holy Father expressed his satisfaction over the "considerable and
qualified" road "covered in these decades." We must thank God, he said, for
"the commitment and competence with which the Union of Italian Catholic
Jurists has supported the primacy of the person and the need for the common
good, in the evolution of society and of juridical history over the past
In fact, the Pope emphasized, "the common concern of jurists today consists
in giving fullness and actuality to human rights, in face of grave
violations registered in various parts of the world, notwithstanding solemn
pronouncements to the contrary." But unless "there is full and universal
consensus on this principle" he concluded, "it runs the risk of achieving
only modest results or of confusing genuine rights with subjective and