International Human Rights Week

Reflection for International Human Rights Week at d’Youville Secondary School

While it may be a regular school day in Brampton, there is an important issue being promoted this week. That’s because December 10th was International Human Rights Day. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations declared respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

Now I can go naming articles and quoting sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but instead I’m going to tell you what it’s all about and why it’s so important. You see for some reason, although God created us in his image and we are all equal in God’s eyes, humans don’t seem to treat each other this way. All around the world, people are being murdered needlessly, repressed, raped, ridiculed, deprived of basic needs such as health care and nutrition.

Let’s not be selfish and think about all of our rights. We live in a society where we’re pretty much protected. But what do these International Human Rights actually include?

First off, like I just said, article one. It says this: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” International means in all countries. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms of the declaration without distinction – so why isn’t this happening in our world? Oh, because we see ourselves as different from others around us, right? So is that acceptable? No. It says we all have these rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status, regardless of political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs. That pretty much says that I, Daniel Francavilla in Brampton, have the same rights as a 17-year-old boy in Malawi living in a hut.

Recently a British newspaper revealed that GAP clothing was being made by child labourers in India, some as young as 10 years old. You’re not allowed to force me to sit in a filthy, humid room for 16 hours a day sewing logos on Old Navy sweaters and pay me a few cents an hour. And guess what? You’re not allowed to force a 17-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic to do that either. But guess what – it happens. And we’re letting it. You’re letting it happen, I’m letting it happen. When we go purchase those expensive shoes, jeans, or even computers, we’re promoting this industry. And it’s a violation of human rights.

Article 13 says that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. So if you want to get a job in New York, you can leave, make some money, and come back to Canada, and you’ll be welcomed back. However, you can definitely come up with several examples of countries today where people are murdered or imprisoned for trying to leave their own country.

Article 18 says that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. So if you’re just sitting there in school and you see that there’s a problem with the way things are being run, don’t just get ticked off – go express your thought – respectfully of course. And if you are slacking in your faith, I suggest you go thank God for the fact that you can express your faith openly and won’t be taken to prison for it.

Article 21 says that everyone has the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. So when you’re 18 you can vote for someone to represent you. Why are there hardly any young people going to the poles? I don’t know, but in some countries people would do anything to have the opportunity to vote, or at least have their vote count.

You know I’m not going to go through all of these random articles in the Declaration of Human Rights. But haven’t you noticed that these are all great rights that we are all supposed to have, but many people around the world simply don’t. Simple things like the right to rest and leisure from work and the right to education – we just assume we’re all good, because we have them. But there are so many people around the world who are deprived of these basic things! In Canada we could never imagine being forced to work all day with no rest and minimal pay, or to not be able to go to school and get a good job.

So during this week, and during Christmas, let’s appreciate the rights that we have. Human Rights Day 2007 is the start of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

God, let us be thankful for the rights we have.
Let all of us at d’Youville continue to be protected and safe.
Help us to pay tribute to those who originally wrote the Declaration, and to the many human rights defenders around the world who have struggled to make their vision a reality.
Let’s pray for those who are dying and suffering around the world, and those that are being deprived of basic human rights.

More info:
UN Human Rights Day
Declaration of Human Rights