In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 Human Rights Day in order to highlight the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as “the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” Now, I think that is a really great idea. Human rights – everyone should have them and they should be protected.
But what exactly is meant by “human rights”? In trying to answer that question I have learned that there are two types of rights: rights that are essential for a dignified and decent human existence, and rights which are essential for adequate development of human personality. Rights under the first category include the right to fulfillment of basic human needs like food, shelter, clothing, health and sanitation, and earning one’s livelihood. The second category of human rights includes the right to freedom of speech and expression, as well as cultural, religious and educational rights. Whew! I’m glad we’ve gotten that straight! I’m sure the book “The International Human Rights Movement: A History” could help explain the concept a lot more.
It would be easy to get hung up on all the small stuff – and all the big stuff! There seems to be so much chaos and turmoil these days, both far away and close to home, and all affecting or having to do in one way or another with human rights. It feels as though the world is coming apart at the seams. But with this blog post, I wanted to focus on the positive because I feel like we could all just use a hug these days, even if it’s only a metaphorical or literary hug. So I went searching for books to give me a me a sense of hope in our communities, both local and global, and in our shared future.
The first book I found was the classic, “Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community” by Martin Luther King, Jr. I have had this book on my “to-read” list for a very long time, and perhaps it’s time to move it up because his “dream” is still far from reality. Perhaps one way of making that dream a reality would be through forgiveness, and the book “Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World” by Megan Feldman Bettencourt could help in that quest.
I also found many books about inspiring people in war torn areas, like the book “Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman, 90,000 Lives Changed.” This book tells the story of Dr. Hawa Abdi who has dedicated herself to helping people whose lives have been shattered by violence and poverty by turning her 1,300 acres of farmland into a camp just outside of Mogadishu. There is also the book “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War” about Leymah Gbowee. This remarkable woman founded the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, “a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike.”
Then there were books to give me hope for peace in the world. “Soup for Syria: Building Peace Through Food” sounds very promising. It actually reminds me of a book I read several years ago called “Peace Meals: Candy Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories.” And I think we could all use more peace through good food.
But what can I do? Wendell Berry has always been an inspiration for me, and he has a new book called “Our Only World: Ten Essays,” which calls for “clear thinking” and “direct action.” There is also President Carter’s “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.” Carter addresses the violence, patriarchy and abuse that can be found in religion without denying his own religion, which I deeply respect. And then there is “The Art of Waging Peace: A Strategic Approach to Improving Our Lives and the World,” which promises to show us “how we can become active citizens with the skills and strength to defeat injustice and end all war.” That’s a tall order, but I’m willing to give it a go!
Here are some more books (and some DVDs) for further reading.