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Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.

Human Rights day 2015-PicThe United Nations designates Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day.

According to the UN, human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Given the events of recent weeks—two stunning attacks on innocent people – one in Paris, the other right here in the U.S., a world conference attempting to arrest the horrific change we have manipulated in our climate, and a climate of fear that has people talking about building walls to keep people out—a Human Rights Day seems an especially relevant reminder of the good that can come when the people of the world work together.

Human Rights Day celebrates the existence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration that grew out of the experience of World War II and represented the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. According to the UN, “Since 1948 when the UDHR was ratified, it has been and rightly continues to be the most important and far-reaching of all United Nations declarations, and a fundamental source of inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

This year’s celebration of Human Rights Day also marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of two international treaties that according to the UN would forever shape international human rights: The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

These two covenants along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have now become known as the International Bill of Human Rights serving as a kind of a yardstick by which to measure the degree of respect for, and compliance with, international human rights standards.

It is easy to see that there is still work to be done.

The UN Office for Human Rights says it this way, “Fifty years on, many people are still unaware of the existence of the International Bill of Human Rights and many countries around the world still have much to do to build political institutions, judicial systems, and economies that allow ordinary people to live with dignity. The growth of hate speech against religious and racial minorities, the justification of rights violations in the name of combatting terrorism, the clawing back of economic and social rights in the name of economic crises or security, and the failure to respect the right to privacy in the digital age, show the relevance of the two Covenants and the need to respect them.”

To promote and raise awareness of the two Covenants on their 50th anniversary and to urge continued attention to the work of human rights, the UN is launching “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” a year-long campaign to shine a light on the inalienable and inherent rights of global citizens – now, and always.

According to the UN promoters, “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” revolves around the timeless themes of rights and freedom and the relevance of the work that continues in securing and ensuring them. FREEDOM, underpins the International Bill of Human Rights – freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom from want.

The term, the Four Freedoms, was actually coined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On Jan. 6, 1941, at the close of his State of the Union Address to Congress, Roosevelt described his vision for a better way of life through what he considered the four essential human freedoms: Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want and Freedom of Speech.

The Four Freedoms were adopted by the Allies during World War II as their basic war aims. Eventually the Four Freedoms formed an important pillar of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted on Dec. 10, 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Here are Roosevelt’s actual words:

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look
forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression
– everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his
own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world
terms, means economic understandings which will secure to
every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants
– everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into
world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments
to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation
will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression
against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite
basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and
generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of
the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators
seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt
excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress,
January 6, 1941

On Human Rights Day, it is good to remember this vision for a kind of world where these freedoms are enjoyed and celebrated – everywhere in the world.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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  1. Avatar Linda Drummy on December 10, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for this very important post and reminder of this Human Rights Day. I love the inclusiveness of the Sisters of Providence!!

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