By Francesca Merlo
On Human Rights Day, Pope Francis makes an appeal to “place human rights at the heart of all policies, including development cooperation policies, even when this means going against the tide.”
Equal human dignity in every person
These words came in a message to the International Conference: entitled “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations” promoted by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development and the Pontifical Gregorian University. The two-day conference is being held to mark the 70th anniversary since the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th Anniversary since the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Rights: rooted in the nature of each person
In his message, read by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Pope Francis recognises that through the two documents being celebrated, “the family of Nations wanted to recognise the equal dignity of every human person”. He explains that these rights are “universal, indivisible, interdependent and interconnected” and that they are rooted in the nature of the human person, as an “inseparable unity of body and soul”.
This year, marking two important anniversaries, is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the respect that we must have for the human rights of every person in contemporary society, says the Pope. He stresses that “special attention must be payed to the more vulnerable members of our communities”. Saying, in fact, that in observing our contemporary society, we encounter numerous contradictions that lead us to ask ourselves if this United Nations Declaration is “recognised, respected, protected and promoted under every circumstance”.
Human diginity cannot be ignored
The Pope goes on to say that today many forms of injustice persist “nourished by reductive anthropological visions, and by an economic model based on profit that does not hesitate to exploit, discard and even kill man”. Whilst many live in wealth, says the Pope, many others “see their dignity ignored, despised or trampled on and their most basic rights ignored or violated.”
Pope Francis says that his thoughts are with those who “are subject to acts of intolerance, discrimination and violence because of their racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation”, and stresses that he cannot forget those who are victims of the tragedy that is armed conflict, “while unscrupulous death merchants are enriched at the price of the blood of their brothers and sisters”.
Each of us are called to help
“We are all called into question” says the Pope, “to contribute with courage and determination” within the realm of our respective positions. “Especially we Christians” continues the Pope, for whom this “necessity for justice and solidarity” has a special meaning. He explains that the Gospel invites us to “move with compassion” as we look towards our more vulnerable brothers and sisters and to “make a real effort to alleviate their suffering”.
Pope Francis ends his message by expressing his hope that “these days of reflection may awaken consciences and inspire initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting human dignity”.
With this, the Pope says, “I entrust each of you, your families and your people.”