"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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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.