International Human Rights Day

“It’s time for each of us to step up for human rights.
There is no action that is too small: wherever you are, you can make a difference.
Together, let’s take a stand for more humanity.” -- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein

Something strange happens as we move closer to Christmas. Even the most outward-looking of us seem to leave the world at the door, put the 24-hour news on mute and try to recreate our lives as a Victorian Christmas card with snow on gables and tables creaking under the strain of roasted turkey.

And sometimes, that’s the right thing to do. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the bonds of family to the exclusion of all else. In the midst of so much global turmoil, we need the Christmas lights to shine a little brighter and the carolers to sing a little louder.

But ours is not the Victorian age, and to pretend that we can celebrate Christmas in a reality vacuum is to cling to the coattails of the ghost of Christmas past. The 24-hour global news cycle, for all its faults, insists that we look deep into the eyes of our brothers and sisters wherever they are.

And yet, as we recognise the divine humanity in each other it is impossible to pretend that the belief that all human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms is universally incarnated. Too many people are still being left behind.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written out of the embers of World War Two, does not offer a sticking plaster to future generations. Instead it offers something much riskier, something much more generous: it offers us the permission to be bold.

The permission to be bold enough to reach out to those who are left out in the cold because of their gender, class or ethnicity. Bold enough to challenge the systems that keep people stuck in poverty, far from good education and compassionate health care. Bold enough to be the Good News to our neighbours across the street and across the world.

Today, Human Rights Day, let’s take a moment to stand up for someone's rights. You could start by adding Theresa May to your Christmas card list. You could ask her to remember that her words and policies affect the lives of the 65 million people who are fleeing conflict and violence. You can light the way. Today, of all days, be bold.

Leanne Clelland works for Christian Aid. You can find out more about the Christmas Appeal here.

Comments: 1

Rachel ME McKenzie on December 10 2016 at 09:22

There's plenty evidence that that the Universal declaration of Human rights is ignored in much ECHR human rights today. I appreciate your sentiment but this is far too simplistic. Teresa May is trying to stick up for religious freedom and Christianity in a post Christian society. There is a lot coming from ECHR today that won't stand for the baby in the womb, the disabled. Not all human rights ideology is positive and in certainly has moved away from absolute right to life from the 1950's. Looking at immigration isolated from policies which discard human life in the womb are short-sighted. If you can kill as a solution and call it a human right, then you can let 65 million go hungry too. Time to apply wisdom and action and not just rhetoric. There was a problem last Christmas with people fleeing war and we had a different prime minister and we had human rights.


  • 56 years ago