HUMAN RIGHTS DAY DECEMBER 10 2012

Human Rights Day Message – 2012

 
On Human Rights Day, 10 December, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights proffers to the international community the message of Inclusion and the right to participate in public life. The highlights of the message are: everybody has the right to have their voice heard and to have a role in making the decisions that shape their communities; fulfillment of the right to participate in public life is fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society and an effective human rights protection system; participation and inclusion are critical in the development and implementation of durable, workable policy solutions.
As we observe Human Rights Day with the international community today,  and emphasise the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives, we cannot miss or overlook the poignancy of the human rights situation in India. The people who non-violently oppose nuclear power plants and Uranium mines, are greeted with atrocious and brutal attacks by the police, dangerous fabricated cases like sedition, waging war on the state etc., imprisonment (even women have not been spared), curfew and prohibitory orders. When thousands of tribal villagers oppose Government’s move to dispossess them of their land and fields in favour of the POSCO mining project, they are brutally attacked by paid goons of the company. Instead of arresting those goons, the police slap false cases against protesters including women.
According to the recent Human Rights in India: Status Report 2012 by Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR), glaring violations of human rights include: starvation deaths – though officials refrain from acknowledging their occurrence. Consider this:
* One farmer suicide every 43 minutes
* Willful neglect of healthcare (India spends only 4.4% of its budget on health, which is far below the global median of 11.5%)
* Criminal neglect of Children (constituting over 40% of the Indian population, children receive only 5.3% of the national budget)
* Enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in conflict areas, reinforced by extraordinary powers of arrest, detention and immunity available to the security forces (The National Human Rights Commission has admitted that 191 fake encounter killings took place in the country in the last five years)
* Custodial torture (on an average, 1.8 million people are victims of police torture and violence in India every year)
* High incidence of violence against women (every 60 minutes, two women are raped, and every six hours a young married woman is found beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide)
* Discrimination and growing atrocities against dalits (one crime against dalits every 18 minutes; every day 3 rapes, 11 assaults and 13 murders etc.)
* Acute discrimination and targeting of religious minorities (communal pogroms against minorities have been masterminded in complete impunity).
What do we, as rights-holders and as Christians, do in the face of these flagrant human violations, especially when the state – the duty-bearer neither respects nor protects the rights of its citizens?
In his Message to the UN on the 25th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pope Paul VI said that we ought not to “remain indifferent in the face of the many grave and often systematic violations of human rights.” Affirming his predecessor’s view, Pope John Paul II, added: “Can we remain silent in the face of such grave crimes against humanity? No effort must be judged too great when it is a question of putting an end to such abuses, which are violations of human dignity.” The Church document, Justice in the World, admitted that Church’s “mission involves defending and promoting the dignity and fundamental rights of the human person.” In short, the Church‘s defence of human rights is an inescapable requirement of her mission of justice and love in the spirit of the Gospel message.
On this Human Rights Day, let us remind ourselves of Pope John Paul II’s message that “citizens have not only the right but also the responsibility to participate” and that “when they are prevented from exercising this responsibility, development of a sound democratic system then becomes practically impossible.” Affirming his teaching that respect for human rights is the secret of true peace, let us endeavour to make respect for human dignity the heritage of humanity and a culture of human rights the responsibility of all. Truly, the culture of human rights cannot fail to be a culture of peace.