Talking Points for Use in
Local Worship Services

at the Time of the 50th Anniversary of the UDHR

The following "talking points" are meant to be a help to preachers, teachers, religious leaders, prayer leaders, and any one else who may want to talk to their religious faith community about the values of human rights and religion on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Religions have made a rich contribution over the history of humankind to the fostering and protection of human dignity and human rights. But we also live in a world with much inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict, often violent and characterized by heinous violations of human rights and human dignity perpetrated in the name of religions. On the occasion of this anniversary, it may be quite valuable to emphasize the inter-religious dimensions to the human rights movement. Feel free to use these talking points and to develop them and adapt them in any way you see fit. It is understood that each religious and faith tradition takes its own approach to these issues--a richness in itself. If any wording in these talking points shows a misunderstanding of a tradition and its beliefs, it is regretted in advance. They were drafted with the help of representatives of many of the world's largest religions but it was always understood that not every religion's language would be perfectly covered in the wording chosen. It is hoped that you will make the necessary adaptations for your own purposes.

1. Human rights are given by the Author of all life and being, not by human institutions. Therefore they are at the core of religion.

  • Religions see basic human rights as rooted in the Author of all life and being.
  • Human institutions are human efforts to protect human rights but they are limited instruments. More is needed. Thus the role of religion and culture.
  • Human rights are not collateral or subsidiary values but match the core concern of religions for human dignity.

2. Religions have found and continue to find common ground in work together with other religions and with all people of good will to bring about a more just and peaceful world where the dignity of all is protected.

  • Even the strongest felt differences in belief and religion are often put aside when the protection of human beings is at stake.
  • Religions often find the way to peace and mutual tolerance in common endeavors of this type.
  • The best witness to the horrors of using religion to foment violence is the common actions of people of different religious backgrounds to bring about peace with justice.

3. Religions recognize and foster human dignity and the inter-relationship of all life on earth. The good of all humankind as it is expressed in religions, however it is understood, includes human dignity in a life of harmony with all other beings.

  • At the heart of reverence for the Author of life and being is the good of fellow human beings and of all the world. However religions define this good, it includes respect for the dignity of human beings.
  • Religions are the best source of understanding how human beings are to be seen in the context of all the earth and of all the world, living harmoniously with it in peace. Ecology and human rights are at one in the vision of religions.

4. The religious/spiritual nature of human beings made manifest in religions leads to an underlying religious/spiritual unity of all humanity calling forth the traditional concern of religions for tolerance of differences (including religious differences), peace-making, reconciliation.

  • While history has many examples of mutual intolerance among religions, when religion is seen at its best and truest, it is fomenting precisely tolerance for differences including religious differences.
  • Thus religions themselves have the right to be protected in the integrity of their beliefs and commitments.
  • This tolerance does not require relativism or indifference to the beliefs and commitments of religions. It calls forth respect for differences without trying to paper over genuine differences.
  • Religion at is core seeks to bring peace and reconciliation out of respect and reverence for the Author of all life and being.

5. The redressing of inequity, injustice, and the suffering of the poor has always been a profound concern of religions out of respect for the inviolable dignity of all human beings.

  • Religion goes further than mere tolerance and charity to seeking respect for the poor, redress for victims of injustice, equity in social life based on the common dignity of all even if equality cannot always be attained.

6. Religions have a transformative power (socially and personally) that they can use to further the recognition of human dignity.

  • Religions have great power in society and culture with which they foment continuing transformation toward a more ethical and compassionate form of social life.
  • Religions can use this power to bring about more respect for human rights and human dignity in society.

7. Religions have always seen a need to break down prejudices and stereotypes (racist, classist, etc.) that act as obstacles to regarding one another as fully realized human beings with full human dignity.

  • Religions have been the enemies of prejudice based on stereotypes and class judgments based on illusion and scapegoating at their best.
  • The concern of religions for human dignity have included concern that the human potential of all be respect and developed.

8. Religions provide a positive vision of peace which will help lead to the full realization of the human rights of all. That vision of peace includes the right of religions to respect for the integrity of their beliefs and to the strength with which they are held.

  • Often human rights theories have been accused of working out of negative visions of peace as the absence of conflict. Religions have a positive vision of peace coming from their most basic beliefs. This positive vision of peace can help to motivate for the building up of a world and social order rooted in respect for the human dignity of all, the basis for peace with justice

9. Religions provide motivation for people to become involved in movements for human rights and social justice.

  • Many of the great heroes in the history of humankind's search for a life of human dignity and peace have been great religious figures. Workers for peace with justice throughout history have often been motivated by the ideals and beliefs of their respective religions. The ethical and religious formation of religions can help to swell the ranks of those whose seek to build such a world.

10. Religions lay a foundation for the recognition that violence to the earth and, indeed, to the universe is a fundamental violation of the human rights of all and an invasion of the harmony of all beings.

  • Religions have a holistic vision of human beings in the context of a rich fabric of connections and inter-relationships with all created beings. It is the best source for protecting all the world from the human potential for violent destruction of habitats, environments, and the fragile ecosystem of the earth, and of the universe itself.
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