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Sowing Life and Hope

Promoting
Human Rights

Spirituality
of Human Rights

Original in Spanish
Copyright: „Equipo Teyocoyani”
Apartado postal LM 131
Managua – Nicaragua

Responsible for the English version:
Michael Heinz SVD
Via die Verbiti 1
00154 Roma – Italy

svd.jpic@verbodivino.it

Imprimatur: (Original in Spanish)
Bishop Bernhard Hombach
Juigalpa - Nicaragua


CONTENTS


Introduction

Sowing Life and Hope
The Spirituality of Human Rights

Promoting Human Rights: A Way to God

Today we generally associate the topic of human rights with demonstrations and protest marches. In this booklet we would like to go beyond the slogans and protest marches in order to reach the foundation of human rights, which has a spiritual basis. We will discover in the first place that human rights are a concern of daily life – in the family, at school or work, in  voluntary organizations etc. It is precisely here that they must be developed. Each one of us has within him or herself the possibility of promoting or of infringing the human rights of other people.

For each right that we claim for ourselves there is a corresponding obligation to respect the rights of others. Jesus of Nazareth teaches us the best way to promote human rights: “So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets”. (Matt. 7: 12).

We honestly believe that we will be able to deal thoroughly with the question of human rights only if we are able to live them spiritually. In other words, if we can meditate on the challenges and difficulties, which human rights bring up, in the light of the mystery which is God. He, and not the law courts nor the United Nations, is the final arbitrator or judge in these matters. It is to him that we will have to render an account of our actions and omissions in matters relating to human rights. This applies both on the individual level as well as on the community and governmental level.

Down through the ages the prophets have proclaimed with great insistence that it is impossible to worship God without acting in favour and in support of human rights, especially when it is a question of the poor and the oppressed. As the great prophet Jeremiah said; “He defended the cause of the poor and the needy. Is not that what it means to know me? – it is Yahweh who speaks. (Jer. 22:16). This is the only way to act where human rights are concerned: to act in favour of the ones who are the poor and needy.

This is what Pope John XXIII pointed out when he said that in matters concerning the rights and obligations of people towards one another: “people immediately open themselves up to the world of spiritual values - for example justice, love liberty, - and “it is through these values that they will discover that they come to know the true God more and more” (PT 29).

This booklet will try to show that it is through promoting and defending human rights that one journeys towards God. Hopefully it will help us understand the spirituality of human rights and how it should grow and develop among us. A special word of THANKS to Jose Arguello who gave permission for the use and distribution of this booklet, also to Brian OReilly SVD and John Musinsky SVD for the translation work.

Michael Heinz SVD
SVD – JPIC coordinator
Rome

 


1. In the Image and Likeness of God

Human Dignity - Basis of all rights
And God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27
.

Christ, an open book on Human rights

Christ continues to be a book in which we can read his concern for the dignity and rights of the human person and, at the same time, a book of knowledge on the dignity and rights of the nations.

(John Paul II.
Warsaw, June 2nd. 1979)

 

Every human being has been
created in the image and
likeness of God and possesses
a sacred dignity

 
   
   
 

For this reason when
human rights are violated,
God is also offended

We are Equal in Dignity

“All human beings are born free and are equal in dignity and rights. Since they are endowed with reason and conscience they should conduct themselves fraternally in their relationships with one another.”

Universal Declaration on Human Rights Article 1.

Did you ever stop to think
why it was that in the
beginning God created only a
single human being?
In fact, he could have
created a great
number of people at
the same time!
   
   
I am now going
to explain  it to you. Whoever
destroys even one single human life
will be considered by God to have destroyed
all of humanity; and whoever saves even
one human life, will be considered by God
to have saved all of humanity.

The Game of the Treasure

Without any of the group noticing you doing it, cover a mirror with a cloth and present it to the group as a great treasure to be discovered. Volunteers are invited to come and remove the cloth from the mirror and look at what is there. How do they  feel on discovering the treasure? Surprise, pleasure... or disappointment? Why? Because they only saw the reflection of their own face instead of the “treasure” that they had hoped for?

Discussion

  1. For about ten minutes let’s chat in groups of two, doing our best to discover the outstanding qualities of one another. Then let us present one other to the group, sharing the qualities we have discovered in each other.
  2. Have we been taught to see good in ourselves and to value ourselves, or to have no respect for ourselves? What messages have been given to us on this matter at home, at school, at work, in groups to which we belong?
  3. How should we behave to show that we are mutually respected and appreciated, in the family, at work, or in the groups to which we belong?

Rights and obligations arise from our nature as persons.

Every human being is a person, that is to say a creature endowed with intelligence and free will. Consequently, as a result of their very nature human beings have rights and obligations, which are universal and inviolable, and at the same time absolutely inalienable. If we consider the dignity of the human person in the light of revealed truths, it is inevitable that we will esteem them all the more, given that the blood of Christ has redeemed humanity. Supernatural grace has made them children and friends of God, and also heirs to eternal life.

John XXIII
Pacem in Terris, 4

Goodness, I don’t
understand what Pope
John is saying here!

 

Diana: Perhaps I could put it in my own words: he is telling us that in the first place we are people, with the ability to think and make decisions, and that as a result of this we are free

Stephen: Yes, that much I understand…

Diana: However, being free to act means that we have both obligations and rights. Why? Well, it is very simple. My freedom exists in relation to the freedom of others; since nobody exists alone in this world. If I want to use this freedom well, I have to use it responsibly in relating to others, and from there come my obligations. And at the same time since I am a person who should be respected by others, and so I also have my rights. Both obligations and rights are applicable to all people and this is something nobody can deny.

Stephen: So that is how it is?

Diana: Of course! However the matter goes even much further. We must also take into account that in the light of faith we are not only people endowed with intelligence and freedom, but also sons and daughters of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This has made us heirs to the glory of God. Consequently our dignity knows no limits!

Biblical texts to help us with our reflections on how we
are created in the image and likeness of God.

Gn. 1:27. God created man in the image of himself; in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.

God is invisible, but he has endowed people with such great dignity that he has made them into his representatives in creation. This dignity is equal both for man and women. Honouring the divine image in every human being we give the most solid foundation possible for human rights since we transform every human life into something sacred (Mt. 25: 40, 45.)

Lev. 19:32. Rise in the presence of the aged and honour the elderly; in doing this you honour your God. I am Yahweh.

For the people of Israel their faith was something extremely concrete, something, which was lived out even in the very simple gesture of showing reverence and respect for an old person. Here one can feel the sense of respect before the dignity of a human person (Ex. 22: 20 – 22). In the book of Leviticus we also read: “ You shall not curse a deaf man, nor put a stumbling block in the way of the blind; but you shall fear your God; I am Yahweh. (Lev. 19:14).

Ps. 8: 3-6: When I observe the heavens, all wrought by your hands, the moon and the stars arrayed in a vault what is man that you should be mindful of him? the son of man that you should care for him? Yet you have made him little lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honour, you have given him dominion over the works of your hands: You have put all things under his feet.

The psalmist reflects here on the greatness of the human person; their dignity is so great that the creator of the whole Universe is dependent on them (Sir.16: 17-23; 17; 15:19-21.) and he entrusts to them the magnificence of his own creation.

Sir. 17:1 –14. God filled people with wisdom and knowledge, he taught them good and evil. He put his own inner eye in their hearts so they would understand the greatness of his works. They will praise his holy Name and relate the magnificence of his creation (Sir. 17:7-10)

In this beautiful chapter from the Book of Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach, as it is also known) the author is reflecting deeply on Gn. 1: 26-30. He describes how God invests people with power just like his own and makes them in his own image: he puts the fear of people in all living things (Sir.17. 3-4)…. The whole passage is a song to the dignity of the human person: woman and man are gifted with intelligence; they are capable of distinguishing between good and evil. They can marvel at the works of God, and receive his commandments. For this reason God guards their ways and protects them with his great mercy. “Their deeds are as clear as the sun to him…all their sins are before him. The Lord who is good and knows his creatures, he does not destroy nor desert them, but rather spares them” (Sir.19-21).

Jn. 1:14. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us……

By taking on our flesh Christ has now clothed every human person with a new dignity. Vatican 11 states: “The Son of God through his incarnation, has in a certain way united himself with every human person. He worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind, he loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly become one of us, and is like us in all things except sin”. (Gaudium et Spes 22). (Rm 8:14-17.)

2. Overcoming Fear

The main obstacle to recognizing and defending Human rights.

This is what Yahweh says of the prophets
Who lead my people astray:
you cry: ’Peace’ when you have something to eat,
but to anyone with nothing for your mouths,
it is ‘War’ that you declare…
But as for me, I am filled with might
with the spirit of Yahweh,
with justice and courage,
to declare to Jacob his transgressions,
to Israel his sins.
Micah 3: 5, 8.

Fr. Stephen writes to his communities...

Fr. Stephen is a priest, 43 years old who has already spent twelve years in the mountainous region of Musayamba. His parish had been a war zone and is now being plagued by armed gangs. He is carrying out his apostolate in very difficult circumstances.

I write to you with a heart that is broken because of the situation of violence engulfing our communities. Here in Musayamba there are daily reports of kidnappings, robberies and killings, crimes that are not even being published in the national press because of the remoteness of the area. We are totally abandoned, without any help from the army or the police who hardly ever intervene to put an end to these terrible abuses. The law courts do not protect us. Even in cases where a crime has been shown to have been committed, the law is not enforced because of bribery and corruption on the part of officials.

Yesterday as we were coming back from our beautiful parish mission we came across the body of a young man brutally stabbed to death and lying on the banks of the river Colorado. It was Carlit’s Porras, a kind young lad who with his guitar playing inspired our celebrations of the Word of God in the community of El Corozo. I cried as I gathered up his badly mutilated and bruised body, which had been abandoned in the swamp. Later on I discovered that a gang that calls itself “El Esquirin” had savagely murdered him.

Later as I stood listening to the cries and lamentation of his family I confess I felt utterly exhausted. I could not find words to console either his family or myself: I cried out to God from the depths of my being. “Rise Lord O God, raise your hand, do not forget the afflicted. Why do the wicked revile God and assure themselves saying, “He cannot hold me accountable for what I do”. But you see those in misery O God and you take them into your hands. The unfortunate commits himself to you; the orphan turns to you for help; (Psalm 10:12-14.) This prayer comforted me, and gave me the strength to address the community.

We celebrated a Eucharist filled with emotion, with many words of appreciation for Carlos. However, reflecting later on the image of his dead body I asked myself the question: “Would his life which had been cut short so cruelly not spring up again among us in the form of a deeper commitment and service to the community? Or would we not through our indifference and apathy continue to encourage the hands of those who killed him”?

In our parish meetings I hear stories of attacks being carried out on the roads and of women being raped. We cannot continue to allow forty organized lawless people terrorize over four hundred scattered families. You remember how during the war the deacon Stanislaus Perez was abducted from the parish here and how we mobilized ourselves and forced his kidnappers to release him. I myself took charge of seeking his release in spite of the threats and dangers.

Lawless persons could not survive without the support of you the country people. They need food and they need protection. The time has come to conquer the fear that binds us hand and foot. Let us unite and organize us in order to overcome this terror

To allow ourselves to be overcome by fear in this moment is a sin against faith. How many of us continue to contribute towards maintaining this situation of death through cowardice, indifference and complicity? Before God I accuse myself of not having reported what is happening among us either to the Church or the civil authorities. When will the day come when the whole Church will react to the sufferings of the most humble of its members? Only when this happens will we be truly able to call ourselves the Church of Jesus.

In our parish we have a network of 53 communities each with its own leader. If all of us were to respond as a single body whenever the bandits touch any of our neighbours or relatives, they would quickly see how things could change around here.

I would like to have this letter read and discussed in your church next Sunday. When we meet again I want you to bring some concrete proposals as to how we should respond to this situation.

I greet you all warmly in the Lord, Stephen Acevedo, Parish Priest

 

Even if the police were to capture one
of these criminals, there would be
nobody to press charges against him
before a judge. Yet these are the same
criminals who present themselves as
the defenders of human rights,
demanding freedom for their
accomplices! So there is no way to
bring them to justice.

In the cities the situation is
different, but there is violence
there too.

 

What is the real
cause of all this
violence?

 

Discussion

  1. Are we experiencing in our own places situations similar to the ones described by Fr. Stephen in his community? How do you view his proposal? Does it seem realistic?
  2. What can we do in situations of violence like these? Have you any concrete proposals?
  3. What is Fr. Stephen trying to say to us when he writes that to allow ourselves to be overcome by fear is a sin against faith? Do you agree with him? (See Mk. 4:40)
  4. Let us comment on the following idea: “only on the day when our Church reacts when the most humble of its members are being affected can we truly call ourselves the Church of Jesus... What is your opinion on this matter? Share with the group your opinion and compare Mt. 25: 40, 45.

Let us meditate on Psalm 43 (42).

Biblical Texts on Which to Reflect on the Topic of Fear

John 7: 11-13. Nobody spoke out openly for fear of the Jews (13)… The feast of Passover was being celebrated and Jesus went up to Jerusalem passing discreetly among the crowd in order not to draw the attention of the authorities who were following him in order to kill him. They contemptuously asked the people if they had seen that man, but in this matter everybody spoke in a low voice. Contradictory opinions were held about Jesus. Some said that he was a very good person”. Others said, “definitely he is someone who is misleading the people”. But nobody spoke out openly for fear of the Jews.

John 9: 17 – 29. The parents (of the man blind from birth who had been cured by Jesus) said this for fear of the Jews who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled from their communities Once again people are afraid to acknowledge Jesus because it would implicate them. It is for this reason the parents of the man born blind avoided a direct answer to the persistent questions of the Pharisees.

John 12: 42. Many of them, however, believed in Jesus, even among the rulers, but they did not acknowledge him because of the Pharisees lest they be put out of the Jewish Community.

John 19: 38. After this event (the crucifixion) Joseph, from the village of Arimathea approached Pilate. He was a disciple of Jesus, although secretly, for fear of the Jews.

John 20:19. On the evening of that same day (when the risen Jesus appeared to Mary of Magdala) the first day of the week, the disciples had the doors locked for fear of the Jews… They were terrified before the horror of the crucifixion and locked themselves away completely disheartened.

Acts 4:13. They were astonished (the leaders the elders and the teachers of the Law) at the boldness of Peter and John, considering that they were uneducated and untrained men. They recognised also, that they had been with Jesus…. The change of attitude of the disciples is surprising: instead of remaining locked away, paralysed with fear, they go out into the streets of Jerusalem, even to the Temple itself, to announce the resurrection of Christ and proclaim his message in open defiance of the Jewish authorities. What has happened? How did this change come about? They have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit enables them to overcome their fear and confront any danger. They do not trust in themselves, but humbly beg God for this gift of courage.

“And now Lord, see their threats against us, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness (Acts 4:29)”.

Acts 5: 27 –29. The High Priest began to interrogate them (the apostles). “We gave you a formal warning,” he said “not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us”. In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men”.

3. Cry of Distress.

When the poor cry out, the Lord hears
And saves them from distress
Psalm 34 (33): 7.

Fear not, for I am with you,
be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will give you strength,
I will bring you help,
I will uphold you
with the right hand of my justice
Isaiah 41:10.

O God, show your
mercy to me, for my
foes are in hot pursuit
of me, they press their
attack on every side.
But when I am afraid,
O mighty One,
I put my trust
in you
Psalm 56 (55): 2,4.

Discussion.

  1. First we read psalm 56 (55) together, and then share with one another what strikes us most in this psalm.
  2. If we compare the reality of the psalmist with that of our own rural communities living in situations of violence, which verses would we choose to describe our situation?
  3. What are the feelings the psalmist expresses to God? Let us carefully note these feelings and write them down.
  4. Are we able to pray with the same intensity of feeling as the psalmist? Let us try to write our own psalm keeping in mind the reality being lived today in our communities.

You can also make use of
these following psalms
in your community:

Let us meditate on Mk. 4: 35 – 41; Isaiah 41: 8 – 16; Eph. 6:10 – 19.

  • Psalm 3: Crying to God in the midst of persecution.
  • Psalm 7: 2 – 10: The psalmist seeks refuge in God when faced with those who assault and kill. He points out his innocence and announces the ruin of those evil people.
  • Psalm 10 (9): 1 – 18: The psalmist calls on God to save him from those who seek to do him violence.
  • Psalm 13 (12): We feel abandoned by God and we ask for his mercy.
  • Psalm 42 (41): 9 – 12: We place our trust in God in the midst of persecution and danger.
  • Psalm 43 (42): We ask justice of God when facing oppression.
  • Psalm 53 (52): It seems that now nobody seeks for God.
  • Psalm 55 (54): We implore protection in the midst of discouragement.
  • Psalm 57 (56): We implore God’s help in the midst of danger.
  • Psalm 59 (58): Against violent people who destroy the community.

Let us express to God the reality in which we are living…

It happened that one afternoon Stephen visited his relative Diana, and they chatted together about the psalms…. They were concerned about the situation of violence which was oppressing their communities…both are members of the parish pastoral council.

Stephen: Would you believe me when I tell you that I never thought of reading and praying these psalms and applying them to the armed gangs who are doing so much damage to our communities?

Diana: Indeed I do believe you Stephen! We are so used to reading the bible with our heads in the clouds. When I noticed this, it really scared me. For many people to read the bible from the context of their lived reality is to meddle in politics. Have you noticed how in our prayers we very seldom reflect on the reality we are living? There are people who prefer to continue singing and praising God, while ignoring the fact that robbers and wicked people are terrorising everybody in the community. Sometimes the armed robbers turn up at the small chapels with their guns, and the poor people continue clapping and singing and don’t even blink an eyelid.

Stephen: Yes Diana, but to praise the Lord by singing and clapping is to do something very joyful. Everybody takes part and the community is encouraged. What is wrong with this? I am very happy about this. But yes, there is this other issue you bring up. Maybe we are trying to escape from the reality that surrounds us by celebrating in this way. The bible never closes its eyes to the reality facing us, no matter how difficult it may be. Listen for example to the following passage from the scriptures: “He lies in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon his next victim. He lurks in secret, like a lion in its covert waiting to seize his prey and drags him off in his net. Stooping, lying prone or crouching, he waits till the hapless victim falls into his power. He thinks to himself: God has forgotten: He has hidden his face and will never see this”. (Psalm 10: 8 – 11)

Diana: How extraordinary! We could have almost have written that ourselves. Just imagine, last Saturday Julian Roque had a young lad who was ill and needed an operation. He went to the town to sell his two mules to pay the doctor. On his way home he was assaulted, they took everything, even the shirt off his back. The young lad died!

Stephen: This is precisely the kind of problem the psalmist addresses: Are they so ignorant, those evil men who swallow my people as though they were eating bread and never invoke God? They will be struck with fear, fear without reason (Psalm 53: 5 - 6)

Diana: That is really wonderful Stephen. I believe that the communities would be greatly encouraged if they were to listen to these psalms. There are still some who prefer to continue to clap and sing in order to forget the terrible situation in which they are living. They would prefer to do this rather than to confront the situation and cry out to God to alleviate all this.

Stephen: Singing is fine for me, Diana, provided that the community also cries out to God like the psalmist, and doesn’t turn its backs on the terrible things that are happening. In the bible the believers were not afraid to bring before God the real situation in which they were living.

Diana; Yes, they even complained to him and fought with him, just as Job did. I believe they were able to do this because they knew they were children of God. They are like children who argue with a father or mother but later are reconciled and make peace. Sometimes I ask myself whether we really trust God. Are we not rather behaving like slaves, thinking that if we don’t praise him all the time he will punish us? Maybe we are afraid of God because we still do not know him? I believe that if we were to know him a little better we would have more love and trust in him. It is for this reason that I meditate a lot on the words of the Apostle Paul who tells us: “ You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall into fear, but the Spirit that makes you adopted children and every time we cry “Abba! Father”! the Spirit assures our spirit that we are children of God”. (Romans 8: 15 - 16)

Do you not see Stephen that if we were to take this word of Paul to ourselves and really believe it, our own prayers would begin to express all that we are living?

Stephen: You are right! But as long as we do not have the courage to take this step, who will dare to pray like the psalmist? Could you imagine yourself, Diana, complaining to God that he has hidden his face from us? Can we say to him?

“Till when, O Lord, will you forget me? Till when will you hide your face from me? Till when must I suffer pain in my soul and bear grief in my heart all the day long? Till when shall my enemy triumph over me? Look upon answer, O Lord and me my God! give light to my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death”. (Psalm 13: 2 – 4)

Diana: I sometimes ask myself, Stephen, whether the reason why God does not act in our lives perhaps is because we do not trust Him?

Stephen: Indeed, Diana, that is a good question. It seems to me that God always responds to our prayers, but not necessarily in the way we would like him to respond. We would perhaps prefer that he takes all trials and sufferings away from us. But he responds not by taking away the difficulties of life but by giving us the strength to confront them. We only have to look at Jesus in Gethsemane to see this. God continues to be God. He is the creator and we are his creatures. We cannot just make use of him to suit ourselves; rather he should always be able to count on us. We know from reading the Scriptures that he loves good and detests injustice. Let us commit ourselves to serving him by doing good and practicing justice in our lives.

Diana: Yes, that is certainly true. The prophet Hosea has already said what we have just been talking about: “The robbers break into houses while the bandits raid outside. They do not realize that I am mindful of their evil deeds. They are engulfed by their sins, which are always before me. (Hosea 7:1).

Stephen: Yes, I never took any notice of those words of the prophet before. This is exactly what is happening to us. Diana: Do you think that if we put our trust in God in this situation there will be some change?

Stephen: Of course! If we would tell God of our sufferings, our fears and our hopes this would give us new strength to act and help us to get out of this passive state, this hopeless silence in which we find ourselves. We might end up crying out like the psalmist: “You hear, O Lord, the longings of the afflicted, and you strengthen their hearts; you give heed to the miserable plight of the exploited, so that men may no longer strike terror on the earth (Psalm 10: 17 – 18)

Discussion.

  1. Comment in your groups on the conversation between Stephen and Diana. What do you think of their reflections? Are you in agreement with them? Explain your point of view?
  2. “In the Bible the believers were not afraid to bring before God the real situation which they were living. Do you agree with the observations of Stephen? In our celebrations do we express the real situations we are living in as a community? What is your own experience?

Let us read Acts 4: 23 –31.

 

Attention, attention!
The apostles Peter and
John have been put into
prison for having cured a
sick man and for having
preached about Jesus
in the temple in
Jerusalem.

Diana, how unjust. This
violates their human rights.
What is the community in Jerusalem going to do about it?

(Acts 3: 3-11; 4: 1 –3)

Thanks to Gamaliel we are
free. We are going to tell you
all that has happened to us.

The community found a biblical text which threw light on their situation, and helped them to interpret what they were living.

(Acts 5: 34-39)

(Acts 4: 24 – 28)

 

“And now Lord, see their threats against
us, and enable your servants to speak
your word with all boldness. Show us
your power with signs of life and hope”.

(Acts 4: 29)
 

When they finished their prayer they were
all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they went
out into the streets filled with courage

(Acts 4:31)

Confronted by a violation of their human rights, what steps did the community in Jerusalem take?

  1. The community gathered to pray for the Brothers who were taken prisoners.
  2. When the Brothers left the prison and returned from having been interrogated by the authorities the community listened to their teaching.
  3. The community responded by spontaneously calling on God. They found inspiration in one of the Old Testament psalms, which threw light on their situation.
  4. They interpreted the psalm in the light of the new situation in which they were now living.
  5. They asked God to give them strength and courage, not be intimidated by the threats of their opponents. They prayed that they might be allowed to continue preaching the gospel with hearts full of hope and life.
  6. Just as at Pentecost the community received the Holy Spirit, and went out into the streets proclaiming the Good News openly and with courage.

4. Penitential Service

Let us all prepare a penitential service. During this service we ask pardon for the part each one of us has played in allowing violence and death to threaten and to engulf our communities.

  1.  We observe a few moments silence and then ask ourselves in the presence of God:

Have I participated in acts of violence, which have damaged or destroyed the lives of other people?
Lord have mercy!

Have I through robbery, extortion, blackmail or the use of threatening behaviour unjustly taken possession of the belongings of others?
Lord have mercy!

Have I deliberately damaged the lives of others through my speech, which resulted in their being attacked or injured?
Lord have mercy

Have I spoken harmful words, which caused anger and ill feelings in others?
Lord have mercy

Have I cultivated feelings of hatred and resentment?
Lord have mercy

Have I profited through acts of violence committed by others?
Lord have mercy.

Have I remained indifferent to acts of violence committed against others?
Lord have mercy

Have I taken advantage of other people through lies or deception?
Lord have mercy

Have I remained passive in situations of violence, allowing myself be carried away by fear and cowardice.
Lord have mercy

Do I behave in an aggressive manner towards others?
Lord have mercy

  1. Let us bring symbols to the group, symbols that represent death and violence. Let us place these symbols beside the crucifix.
  2. We pray the Our Father together.

Prayer for basic rights

O Lord, I ask of you this night that you give to each one of us courage, bravery and determination. There is so much work to be done. Suitable housing is needed for so many who are your sons and daughters.

Employment must be sought for those who have no work, so that they may eat.

Many solutions have to be found to the problem of sickness and education is needed for those who have none.

Rest is required for those who are overburdened.

How many things must I ask of you this night?

Lord, I ask only one thing
from you for myself,
that you keep me faithful,
that I may never grow weary
of proclaiming you name
and walking with my people,
to help them so that we may all struggle together,
Amen
.

Mons. Henry Angelelli,
Bishop from Argentina assassinated
for defending human rights.

5. His Will is Justice

The Lord restores righteousness
and shows justice to all the oppressed
Psalm 103 (102,) 6

Promoting Basic Rights.

Every human being has the right to life, to physical integrity, to the essential means necessary for a decent standard of living, especially in regards to food, clothing, housing, rest, medical care, and essential social services. It is not enough for example, to acknowledge that a people have a right to the means necessary for life, if we do not at the same time ensure as far as possible that all these things are sufficiently available to them.

Pacem in Terris 5 and 19
John XXIII.

Diana: Hello there, O prophet Amos, how are you? It has been many days since I have seen you.

Amos: Ah Diana, it has been a long time since we have met. Where are you coming from at this hour of the day?

Diana: I’m coming from the market where I was doing my shopping. I managed to get some very tasty fruits. I would like to give you a present of this lovely mango.

Amos: Thanks a million Diana, it looks really delicious. Would you believe that I also like to go to the market?

Diana: Really Amos?

Amos: Yes, and one day when I was there I had an extraordinary experience. I was walking through the market in Samaria when I stopped to look at a basket of mature figs. They looked really delicious, a beautiful purple colour. I felt an urge to buy a dozen of them, but when I touched them to see if they were really as good as they looked, I noticed that they were beginning to rot. There and then I really understood what has happened to Israel, and in a flash the Word of the Lord came to me: “My people Israel is ripe for destruction I will no longer forgive them” (Amos 8:2). In truth the king and the upper classes in Israel were living peaceful and contented lives. The economy of the country was doing well and they were living in luxury. But they showed no concern for the plight of the rest of the people. They were like those figs.

Diana: And you Amos, what did you do when faced with that situation?

Amos: Well, I spoke directly to the ruling classes and the powerful people, telling them some truths that they did not wish to hear! I condemned them because they sold the just for money and the needy for a pair of sandals; also they treaded on the head of the poor and trampled them into the dust of the earth; while they silenced the right of the afflicted. (Amos 2:6). The merchants for example are restless during the days of religious feasts when they cannot work. They want to continue with their buying and selling and exploiting the small traders. Speaking on behalf of God I said to them very severely;

“Hear this, you who trample on the needy to do away with the weak of the land. You who say: “When will the new moon or the Sabbath feast be over that we may open the store and sell our grain? Let us lower the measure and raise the price; let us cheat and tamper with the scales, and even sell the refuse with the whole grain. We will buy up the poor for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. (Amos 8: 4-7).

I was enraged by the indifference of the wealthy of Israel who lie on beds inlaid with ivory and sprawl on their couches; who eat lambs from the flock and veal from calves fattened in the stall. Strumming on their harps, and like David trying out new musical instruments. They drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but they do not grieve over the disaster of their people. For this reason the Lord made me pronounce his judgment: I will wipe out the haughty wealth of Jacob and I detest its palaces; for this reason I will hand over into the hands of the enemy, the city with all its inhabitants. (Amos 6: 4-8; 3: 9 – 15; 4: 1 – 3; 5: 10 – 11;)

It is the will of God
that justice should flow like a river…

Diana. That is very strong language, Amos, very strong indeed! But nobody was took notice of you. They must have felt so secure surrounded by all their luxury and wealth. They had made good military alliances and trading agreements with their neighbours and everything seemed to be going so well for them! (Amos 6: 1-14; 5: 18-20; 6: 14-15).

Amos: That is how it is. But God compelled me to say it very clearly to them once again: “Let justice run its course like water, and righteousness be like an ever-flowing river” (Amos 5: 21-24) Again and again I reminded them: “Seek good and shun evil, that you may live. Then Yahweh, the God of hosts, as you have claimed, will be with you. Hate wickedness and love virtue, and let justice prevail in the courts; perhaps Yahweh the God of hosts, will take pity on the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5: 14-15).

Diana: I am interested in one detail, Amos: How was it that in the midst of so much injustice, those Israelites who took advantage of the poor and treated them so badly could continue to assure themselves that God was with them?

Amos: That was the most incredible thing of all for me, Diana, really incredible. When I managed to jolt them by what I said, they would always remind me that they also were descendents of Abraham and the chosen people of God. It seemed that for them the covenant was an inheritance to be kept and guarded, and not a responsibility and a task to be fulfilled. Nevertheless the ones mainly responsible for this kind of thinking were the priests themselves. They tranquillised the consciences of the powerful, making them believe that what was pleased God were their visits to his shrines and the many prayers and sacrifices they offered on the altars. However they completely ignored the basic principles of justice and fairness, and showed no concern for the fate of the poor of the community. The worst of all these blind and stubborn priests of Yahweh was Amaziah the chief priest of the great sanctuary of Bethel, the religious centre of the nation. The king and the nobles frequently came there in their wealthy chariots! You should have seen them! Amaziah welcomed them with open arms since they brought him money (Amos 4:4). God, on the other hand, sent me to speak to them in his name “Do not seek for me in Bethel (Amos 5:5;) since on the day I call Israel to account for his crimes, I will punish the altars of Betel as well. The horns of the altar will be broken off and fall to the ground (Amos 3:14).

Diana: How could God possibly be in that place!

Amos: A good question Diana, but it was for that very reason He said to them: I hate, I reject your feasts, I take no pleasure when you assemble to offer me your burnt offerings. Your cereal offerings I will not accept! Your peace offerings and your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Away with the noise of your chanting, away with your strumming on harps. But let justice run its course like water, and righteousness be like an everflowing river. (Amos 5: 21-24)

Diana: Now I understand why Amaziah asked the king to expel you from his kingdom (Amos 7: 10-13). You, O prophet were too dangerous for this people.

Discussion

  1. Do you think that the message of the prophet Amos has anything to do with the topic of human rights? Discuss your point of view with the group.
  2. Can you relate the topic of basic rights, that is, the right to food, housing, healthcare, and education, to the message of Amos?
  3. Does God, according to Amos and the other prophets of the Old Testament, show any concern for the rights of the poor? Read for example Isaiah 1: 12-17; or Jeremiah 22: 13-17, and explain your point of view to the group.
  4. If the prophet Amos were to live in your country today, would he come across situations similar to those that existed in Samaria? In what sense would they be similar? What do you think his message would be for the people in your country?

Let us reflect on the following scripture passages: Is.65:17-24; Ne.5: 1-13; Is 9:1-6; Is.61: -3; Mic.3 1-12; Job 24:1-12; Ex.3: 1-10; Lev.19: 9-10.

 

Tomorrow, my child, everything will be different!

Anguish will disappear through the far gate
which the hands of the new generation
will have closed forever.

The country people will rule over
their own land
small, but their own. It will flourish
under the kisses of their joyful labour.
The daughters of the workers
will no long have to prostitute themselves
nor will those of the country people.
Bread and clothing will they have
from their honest labour
and tears will be no more
in the homes of the working class.

Tomorrow, my child,
everything will be different.
There will be no whip, nor prison,
nor bullet from the gun
to suppress those who think.
You will walk through the streets of your cities,
in your hands the hands of your children,
unlike now,
a thing which I am unable to do.

Edwin Castro (1958)
Nicaraguan poet

Biblical Texts to Reflect on Social Justice.

Luke 16:19-31. The rich man implored once more: “Then I beg you, father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house where my five brothers live. Let him warn them so that they may not end up in this place of torment”. Abraham replied: “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them”. (Lk. 16:27-29).

Jesus tries to awaken his listeners from their complacency towards the people who have been denied their most basic human rights. He does this by telling them the story of the rich man who lived in great wealth and the poor man covered with sores who did not even have a crust of bread. The rich man personally had not injured or done any damage to Lazarus. He was simply insensitive to his sufferings. He was incapable of showing mercy and solidarity (Ez.16: 49.) This was his sin. Jesus tells us that we should listen to and put into practice the message of Moses. (Deut 15:11.) and the prophets (Is.58: 7). It is on this that the definitive success or failure of our lives before God depends. The Second Vatican Council urges us to make every effort to overcome “the truly enormous economic differences which exist today and which are increasing” (Gaudium et Spes 66). In this parable Jesus invites us to promote the most basic rights of all. He points out that this touches the very heart of our faith and that we risk eternal salvation by not doing so.

I Jn.3: 15-17. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and as you know, eternal life does not remain in the murderer. This is how we have known what love is; he (Jesus Christ) gave his life for us. We too ought to give our life for our brother or sister. If anyone enjoys the riches of this world but closes his heart when he sees his brother or sister in need, how will the love of God remain in him”?

James 2: 15-17; If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food and one of you says “may things go well for you; be warm and satisfied” without attending to their material needs, what good is that? So it is for faith without deeds; it is totally dead.

This passage from the letter of St. James points out once again that the criterion for being a Christian is: are we doing our best to ensure that the basic rights of every person are respected. Examples of such rights are the right to food and the right to clothing. The list can be extended to include medical attention, education, shelter, a listening ear, etc. Giving to those in need should not be understood only in terms of almsgiving. It should be understood rather in its fullest sense as our willingness to share our own creative talents in helping people solve the problems that create poverty.

6. Jesus invites us to share bread and life (Mt. 15: 29-39)

Three out of every five people
suffer from hunger in this world.

Diana: There is something, Stephen, that I often wonder about. Why are there are so many people in the world who do not have enough to eat. Out of every five people who live on this earth three are undernourished and suffer hunger. Scientists are planning to send people to Mars to inhabit a planet that is hundreds of millions of kilometres from the earth. Yet we are not capable of solving such a basic problem as world hunger?

Stephen: It is a frightening question, Diana. Right here in Nicaragua, beyond Somotillo, they recently discovered a whole town where everybody was undernourished, everybody!

Diana: Ah, if you were to see the children in my area, you would see this they too are half starved.

Stephen: Without sufficient food, Diana, the brain can be permanently damaged, the mental capacities of a human being impaired for good. It is so important to guarantee a minimum standard of living for everyone. It is the only way to ensure our own human dignity.

Diana: Bread or tortillas (maize pancakes) are food for me, they are also a symbol of life. Without them there would be no life. The same is true of other requirements so important and essential for a truly human life. For example to have a house with enough space and security for the whole family, a house where parents and children don’t live on top of each other. We also need the health and education services necessary for a decent quality of life. With even a minimum level of justice in the world we would all enjoy these basic rights.

The bread, which Jesus shares with the multitude, is a central theme of the gospels.

Stephen: Just imagine, Diana, the more I think over what we are discussing, the more the gospels passage in which Jesus gives the crowds food to eat comes to my mind.

Diana: The passage of the multiplication of the loaves?

(Mt.14: 13-21; Mk.6: 35-42; Lk.9: 12-17; Jn.6: 1-13;)

Stephen: Yes, the story appears in all four gospels; even to the point of being repeated for a second time in Mt.15: 29-39, and Mk.8: 1-10. It is clear that for the first Christian communities Jesus’ sharing of bread with the hungry crowd was a very significant moment. It is mentioned on six occasions in the gospels.

Diana: It is also a central theme throughout the Bible, Stephen! Do you remember the story in the Exodus, when Yahweh fed his people with manna…and also when the prophets Elijah (1K.17: 7-16.) and Elisha (2K.4: 42-44) multiplied the loaves? Without a doubt the gospel writers had these events from the Book of Kings concerning Elijah and Elisha very much in mind when they wrote their stories on the sharing of bread.

Stephen: Certainly! But there is something else which is very interesting for me, Diana, and that is how Jesus was both teacher and doctor at the same time. All during his public life he healed the sick and taught the people (Mt. 4:23-25; Mk. 1: 32-39). He was concerned about these two fundamental human rights, health and education. In the story of the multiplication of the loaves, Matthew presents Jesus surrounded by a crowd of sick people. “Great crowds came to him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the maimed and persons with many other infirmities. The people carried them to the feet of Jesus, and he healed them” (Mt.15: 30).

Jesus was both a teacher and a doctor.
He was concerned with the two fundamental rights of
the people, namely health and education.

Diana: Yes, this is something that seems to happen again and again in the gospels. Wherever Jesus appears, the sick surround him seeking to be healed (Lk.6: 17-19). In the story of the multiplication of the loaves, which we are discussing, Jesus feels compassion for the people when he sees them weary, like sheep without a shepherd… “I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed me for three days, and now have nothing to eat” (Mt.15: 32).

Stephen: One can see then that the Lord felt the hunger of his people very deeply. Among us, on the other hand there is such a lack of concern for the needs of others. It is almost as though we didn’t care if others go hungry as long as we have enough to eat, or that others are unemployed or at the mercy of the elements as long as we are safe and protected.

Diana: However, Stephen, I don’t think that we should be too pessimistic! There are also many people who are very supportive among us. I know a great number of dedicated people working to try and sort out the problems that affect our lives. I will give you some very concrete examples so that you will see that it is so. There are for example many organizations promoting organic farming. They are doing this in order to regenerate the land and at the same time increase agricultural production. In this way they hope to overcome the destruction of the environment and not cause further suffering and hunger. There are also women’s organisations that struggle to have the dignity and rights of all women recognized. There are those who work with traditional medicine. They offer a very practical way of protecting the health of the community, given the lack of medical care and the high price of medicine. Then there are people who work in literacy programmes. There are others who support small local industries, adult education, theological education and the training of those who support local organizations. There are indeed many initiatives taking place that keep hope alive in the midst of our people. No, not everything is hopeless.

Stephen: That is true Diana. You are right. Sometimes one looks only at the dark side of life because the situation is so difficult. But in the midst of so much gloom there is also hope. There are people who remain faithful followers of the God who showed himself in Jesus sharing the bread with the crowd. He is indeed the God of life.

Discussion

  1. “Jesus was at the same time both teacher and doctor. During his public life he cured the sick and taught the people (Mt.4: 23-25); he was concerned with the two fundamental human rights, health and education”…. Jesus shared bread with the crowds who were hungry. What conclusions can we draw from this for our own Christian life in relation to the basic human rights of food, health and education?
  2. What signs of hope do you see in your community for the promotion of human rights? Does Jesus continue to be present among us through an effective action that seeks to respond to the most urgent problems of the community?

Biblical Texts to help with our reflection on the God of Life.

Mt. 25: 31–46. “For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me into your house. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me” (Mt.35-36). The fundamental question that we will be asked on the Day of Judgment will be whether or not we promoted the human rights of those who were the most defenceless and weakest in the society.

Lk. 1: 46-55; “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are down trodden. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty”  (Lk. 1:52-53.) Mary gathers up in her hymn of praise the righteous action of God in the messianic age, which restores to the oppressed their human rights and sends those who would not share away empty.

Lk.6: 20-23; “Blessed are you who are poor, the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Lk. 6: 20-21)

In the Beatitudes, Jesus announces liberation for those who weep and suffer from hunger, injustice, and oppression. His disciples will follow this same liberating path of God. They will multiply bread just as Jesus did and support all that brings life and joy to the poorest and to those excluded from society, just as Jesus did.

Lk.10: 25-37.

“A Samaritan too, was going along that road and, as he came upon the man, was moved with compassion. He went over to him and treated his wounds with oil and wine and wrapped them with bandages. Then he put him on his own animal and brought him to an inn where he took care of him.

The next day he had to set off, but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper and told him: “Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I come back (Lk. 10: 33- 35).

The disciples of Jesus act like the Good Samaritan when they put all their resources and creative abilities at the service of those who have had their most basic rights denied them. They also try to seek for effective solutions to their problems. But not only that, the disciples like the Samaritan of the parable also try to involve themselves in a deeply personal way with those who suffer. The Samaritan would not have been able to resolve the problems of the wounded man from a distance. He had to involve himself personally. In the parable he approached the man and treated his wounds with his own hands. He used his resources of wine and oil, otherwise necessary for his own journey. He put him on his own animal - he himself then had to walk - and he personally took care of him until he was out of danger. Even this was not enough; he requested the innkeeper to take care of him, offering to pay all the expenses that he would incur. A presence as deeply personal as this is the only way to effectively heal those who have been wounded. And it was this kind of commitment that was able to change the Samaritan also. The meeting with the one who was wounded certainly changed the life of the traveler, teaching him many new things. And the wounded man received something wonderful that changed his life as well.

Lk. 11:3. “Give us each day our daily bread...”

Like the poor, Jesus in the Our Father asks his Father for his daily bread. He knows that without bread life is not possible and so he asks for it as a grace and a gift from God. The fact that Jesus includes the request for bread in the only prayer that he taught to his disciples shows us how important food is as the basis of all human life. In asking God our Father for our daily bread we recognize other people as brothers and sisters. Thus we come prepared to share this same bread with them fraternally. Those who share in the Eucharist commit themselves to be witnesses to the God of Life who shares this fullness of life with all people without exception (Jn. 10:10.).

7. Sharing Bread - Sharing hope

Fast by sharing you food with the hungry
bring to your house the unsheltered needy,
clothe the one you see naked
and do not turn away from your own kin.
Isaiah 58:7.

A BALANCE BETWEEN RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS

People who insistently claim their rights and at the same time forget or don’t give the same importance to their corresponding obligations are like those who take away with one hand what they have given with the other. To live together harmoniously demands that we mutually recognize and respect the rights and obligations of others. It should follow from this that each one generously supports the creation of an environment where the rights and obligations of all are promoted with greater determinations and devotion.

Peace on Earth 18, 19 - John XXIII

From compassion is born the commitment to human rights (Mt. 15:29-39).

Diana: I don’t know what you think, but for me the authentic commitment to human rights springs from the capacity for compassion and mercy that Jesus had. It is here that I see its roots. Then it is from these that the action comes to try and resolve the problems (Is. 58:7).

Stephen: This is certainly true, Diana. This deeply felt compassion, this suffering the needs of another in one’s very being, this is what really makes us to seek the promotion of human rights. But today of course everyone prefers to demand that his own rights are respected, while few are prepared to seek solutions to the lack of respect for the rights of others, be it in the family, the school, the farm or the workplace. It is here that all of us have influence and can contribute to change. However it is often we ourselves who do not respect the dignity of the people closest to us.

Diana: It is for this reason that people become discouraged. Like the disciples of Jesus, we too wish to send the people away empty handed. We are tempted to say: “Go away and let each one sort out his or her own problems”. (Mk 6:36 & Lk 9:12.). We lose heart and think: Where will we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd? (Mt. 11:33). Yes, in this ‘desert’ of a lack of respect for the human person, where shall we find the bread that will bring about effective solutions?

Without our support, without our efforts, Jesus does not perform miracles.

Stephen: Precisely here I find what Jesus did very interesting. First he asked the disciples: “How much bread do you have”? (Mt.15: 34), what he is saying to us is: How much can you give? What resources do you have? Without our support, without our effort, Jesus does not perform miracles. This can be clearly seen in the gospel of Luke. Jesus took no notice of the suggestion of the disciples to go and buy food for the people, since he opposed paternalistic solutions. Neither paternalism (Lk.9: 13), nor discouragement (Mk.6: 36, Lk.9: 12.) nor individualism (Mk 6:36; Lk.9: 12; Mt. 15:15;) could resolve the situation, anymore than they can today. The crowd on the other hand helped out and arranged themselves (Lk.9: 14 – 15; Mk. 6: 39-40.). We also have to organize and do our part, and in this way make out own contribution.

Diana: This is certainly true. The disciples’ were first asked what they themselves could contribute. It was only then that they came across the seven loaves and a few small fish…and remember at this moment they were not aware of what Jesus was about to do! They simply said to him: “Here, this is what we have; there is nothing more. Even though there is not enough for all, let us share what we have!

Stephen: I’m sure there were some in the crowd who had brought food supplies but kept them well guarded in their knapsacks. Now they decided to take them out and share with the others.

Diana: You must be thinking of the women. What man would go about carrying so much food?

Stephen: Yes, (laughing), I’d guess you’re right. Maybe the collection was taken up among more people! Who knows! Although the Evangelist John writes, if I’m not mistaken, that there was a young boy who had these provisions (Jn.6: 9). For me the important thing is that they were willing to share, that they took the initiative of offering Jesus all that they had. Wouldn’t everything change if we were to do something similar today confronted as we are with the terrible problems of hunger and malnutrition, shortage of housing, unemployment, and lack of education?

Diana: Why of course! If we would contribute our talents to resolve these problems we could continue to overcome our indifference and fatalism. We should stop complaining about how difficult the situation is and try to respond positively to it, using the gifts and talents that we have been given.

Stephen: We should also stop being occupied only with our own claims, even though they are sometimes justified; and begin reflecting on how we can make a positive contribute towards helping others. In the long run I think that this is the only solution.

Diana: The fact is, Stephen that wonderful things are happening. New Christian communities are springing up; people are beginning to study their faith more deeply. Leaders are being trained, health services are being organized for the poorest people, and there are those who care for ex-soldiers who have been wounded. New community organizations are being born. Many wonderful initiatives are taking place. We should support and encourage them more, in accordance with our capabilities and the needs in our respective communities.

Stephen: It was the contribution of the disciples that Jesus blessed and for which he gave thanks to his Father before distributing it to the people (Mt. 15:36). Everyone ate and was satisfied.

Diana: With the blessing of the Lord the generosity of a few brought forth abundant fruit!

Stephen: Did you notice how Jesus invited the people to sit on the ground in order to eat? (Mt. 15:35).

Diana: Why did he do this, Stephen?

Stephen: Ah Diana, at that time it was only free people who had the privilege of eating sitting down. Slaves ate quickly, standing, while those who were free, on the other hand, sat or reclined while eating in order to be able to enjoy the meal. In this way, Jesus wanted the people to understand that they were indeed people who were truly free.

Discussion.

  1. Share with the group some of the initiatives being undertaken by your parish in response to the health, education, housing and nutritional needs of the community. Compare them with the initiatives undertaken by the local authorities in your area. Are these initiatives sufficient? What more could be done? Share your opinion with the group.
  2. Compare Mt. 15:30. and Lk. 17:19. With respect to Jesus’ basic attitude what do you find common in both texts? How did he respond to the problems of the people? How could we respond to similar problems today?
  3. Comment in groups on the following sentence: “Today everyone demands that one’s own rights be respected. Only very few are prepared to seek solutions to the problem of the lack of respect for the rights of others. It is here that all of us have influence; here we can contribute to change. What do you think about this? In what concrete situations could we ourselves contribute to solving the human rights problem?

Biblical Texts to help us reflect on the basic rights of all.

Mt. 11:2-6 “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life and good news is reaching the poor.” (Mt.11: 4-5)

The messengers of John the Baptist come to Jesus, to ask whether he really is the Messiah. In order to show them who he is, Jesus points to the liberating signs that he performs. This is a very significant moment in Jesus’ life; it is the beginning of his public ministry, it defines his mission (Lk. 4:14-21). Jesus is a messiah who brings good news to the poor.

How? He changes the negative situations of life into positive ones, especially for the poor. The sick are healed, the blind see and those who live under the shadow of death are born to a new life. He achieves life in abundance for all who feel limited in what they can do. His redeeming action should continue down through the ages through us, his followers, working for those who because of a lack of necessary information and education cannot see or hear, and for those who go hungry and cannot maintain a dignified standard of living because of unemployment, etc.

Mk. 6:34 – 44 “Then he told them to have the people sit down together in groups on the green grass. This they did in groups of hundreds and fifties. And Jesus took the five loaves…handed them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among the people”.

The disciples of Jesus share among the people the food that he had just blessed. Nobody hoards the food for him or herself. Jesus blesses and shares the food that the group had brought along, even though it seemed to be insufficient for everybody’s needs. He does not want the food to be purchased and brought in from outside. Nor does he want each one to try and sort out their problem on their own. He proposes that they share the resources that are present in the group as brothers and sisters. What he blesses and multiplies is what is already present in the group, what they are willing to share. The people arrange themselves in groups of fifty and hundred to make it easier to distribute the food. And in the end there is plenty for everyone.

Lk. 11: 41-42. “ You think that by the mere giving of alms without cleaning the inside everything is made clean. Woe to you, Pharisees, you give for the Temple a tenth of all, including mint and rue and the other herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. This ought to be practiced without neglecting the other

Purity of heart is essential for Jesus. It is not enough to give alms just out of our surplus and to perform pious acts (Is.1: 12-20); it is the internal spirit, which must be reformed. We are called to centre our lives on what is essential for the faith, namely on a love of God that comes from the centre of our being (Deut.6: 5; Hosea 5:4) and to share all our talents (not just alms) with those whom society attacks daily and denies the enjoyment of their most basic rights (Jer.23: 3; Jer.7: 5-11).

Lk. 12: 33-34.”Sell what you have and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out and make safe investments within God, where no thief comes and no moth destroys (Lk.12: 33)”

Jesus invites us to total generosity, to forget ourselves and to share all that we have and are with those who lack even the essentials of life: food, work and education. This type of generosity is madness in the eyes of a world that thinks only of accumulating wealth and taking care of its own well being. This is the treasure of the disciples of Jesus who do not put their trust in money but in a love shared among all.

Luke 14: 12-14. When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright” (Lk.14: 13-14).

The image of the banquet symbolises the best that we can offer with our own lives. This is precisely what Jesus wishes that we share with those who are denied their basic rights; the poor, the sick, those who lack education etc.

Lk. 14: 15-24. “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame”. (Lk. 14:21)

Jesus initiated among us a new way of living together symbolised by the banquet of the Kingdom of God, a way that gives preference to those who are least respected by society and to those who are denied their human rights. It is the will of God that we too give a central place to our choices and efforts for the rights of the poor, the sick, and the disabled. It is they who from now on will take part in the banquet of the Kingdom, a Kingdom of justice, love and life in abundance… This is what God envisages (Jn. 10:10b).

Jn. 15: 6-14: “My father is glorified when you become my disciples, that is, when you bear much fruit (Jn.15.8)… This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for his friends: and you are my friends if you do what I command you. (Jn 15:12-14)

To produce fruit is to love with the tremendous love with which Jesus loved us, even to the giving of one’s life so that all can exercise their human rights.

8. Links to Web sites on Human Rights

English:

  1. Human Rights Library (English, Spanish, French) http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/
  2. Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/
  3. The Human Rights Web Homepage: http://www.hrweb.org
  4. Directory on the Human Rights on the Internet: http://shr.aaas.org/dhr/
  5. African Human Rights Resource Center: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/africa/
  6. Asian Human Rights Commission: http://www.ahrchk.net/
  7. Human Rights around the World:
  8. http://www.derechos.org/human-rights/world.html
  9. Human Rights – NIZKOR: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/

German:

  1. http://www.bessereweltlinks.de/menschenrechte.htm
  2. Allgemeine Erklärung der Menschenrechte http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/ger.htm
  3. Nachrichten zu Menschenrechten: http://www.uni-kassel.de/fb10/frieden/themen/Menschenrechte/Welcome.html
  4. Menschenrechte: http://www.humanrights.de/doc_en/archiv/index_de.html (also English, French)
  5. Amnesty International:
    Deutschland: http://www.amnesty.de/
    Österreich: http://www.amnesty.at/index_relaunch.htm
    Schweiz: http://www.amnesty.ch/

Spanish:

  1. Derechos Humanos en America Latina: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/index.html
  2. Derechos Humanos en el mundo: http://www.derechos.org/ddhh/mundo.html
  3. Librería de Derechos Humanos: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/Sindex.html
  4. Amnisitia Internacional: http://www.amnistiainternacional.org/
  5. Derechos Humanos – NIZKOR: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/

French:

  1. Amnistie International: http://efai.amnesty.org/
  2. Suisse: http://www.amnesty.ch/indexf.html
  3. Documents et autres materiels relatifs aux droits humains: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/Findex.html
  4. Infos aux Droits Humains: http://www.humanrights.de/doc_fr/index.html

9. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1

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.

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, 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. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11

  1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14

  1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in othercountries asylum from persecution.
  2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15

  1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

You will find the complete text at:

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