Human Rights for All—A Worldwide Reality!
“WHAT is the root cause of human rights violations?” an experienced human rights lawyer was asked. “Greed,” answered the lawyer. “Greed for political and economic power.” And since greediness springs from man’s mind, human rights violations ultimately reflect a state of mind. Another cause is nationalism. The my-country-first philosophy fuels human rights violations. Human rights, therefore, will be realized only ‘if a world government comes about that is in a position to take enforceable measures,’ says Dutch professor of law and economy Jan Berkouwer.
In other words, for human rights to become a global reality, at least two things have to happen first: a change of mind and a change of government. Is it realistic to expect these to occur?
A Dual Reason for Change
While the UN Decade for Human Rights Education is about to enter its fifth year, for many decades an international, nongovernmental education program has already been succeeding in changing the minds of millions of people. As a result, these individuals now treat their fellowmen with dignity. This program, carried out by Jehovah’s Witnesses, functions in more than 230 lands. Why does it work?
For one thing, this global Bible educational program broadens people’s understanding of the origin of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that man has rights because he is a rational and moral being.
Man must have received his faculties of reason and conscience from a higher source. (See the box “The Source of Human Rights,” on page 13.) Recognizing this higher, divine source provides a powerful reason for you to respect your fellowman. You then treat others with dignity not only because your conscience prompts you to do so but, more important, because your respect and love for the Creator moves you to treat his creation with dignity. This dual approach is based on Jesus Christ’s words: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind” and, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) A person who deeply respects the Creator would never violate his fellowman’s rights, for they are an inheritance received from God. A violator of human rights is a robber of inheritances.
Education That Makes a Difference
How well does this Bible educational program of Jehovah’s Witnesses work in diminishing human rights violations? The best way to answer that is to look at the program’s results, for as Jesus said, “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.”—Matthew 11:19.
A well-known inscription on a wall of the United Nations Plaza in New York City reads: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more.” With this quotation from the Bible book of Isaiah chapter 2, verse 4, King James Version, the UN points to a major way to decrease massive human rights violations—end warfare. After all, war is ‘the antithesis of human rights,’ as one UN publication expresses it.
The educational program of Jehovah’s Witnesses takes the idea of writing Isaiah’s words on a stone wall a step further. It “writes” Isaiah’s words on human hearts. (Compare Hebrews 8:10.) How? The program clears racial and ethnic barriers and crumbles the walls of nationalism by teaching the Bible’s view of race: There is only one race—the human race. (Acts 17:26) Those enrolled in the program develop a desire to “become imitators of God,” of whom the Bible says: “[He] is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Ephesians 5:1; Acts 10:34, 35.
As a result of this Bible-based education, millions of people today do not “learn war any more.” A change of mind and heart has taken place. And the change lasts. (See the box “Education for Peace,” on page 14.) Presently, more than 1,000 people a day, on an average, complete the basic study courses conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses and join the ranks of this worldwide force for peace.
How deep-rooted is this change of mind and subsequent decision to respect human rights by refusing to share in war? Very deep. To give an example: The depth of the Witnesses’ respect for human rights was put to a grueling test during World War II, especially in Nazi Germany. Historian Brian Dunn stated: “Jehovah’s Witnesses were incompatible with Nazism. Most important of the Nazi objections to them was their political neutrality. This meant that no believer would bear arms.” (The Churches’ Response to the Holocaust) In A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson said: “Many were sentenced to death for refusing military service . . . , or they ended in Dachau or lunatic asylums.” Even so, they stood firm. Sociologist Anna Pawełczyńska described those Witnesses as “a tiny island of unflagging resistance existing in the bosom of a terrorized nation.”
Just imagine what a direct and dramatic drop in human rights violations there would be around the world if all people took this stand today and ‘learned war no more’!
World Government—‘A Utopia’?
‘Changing minds is a challenge, but forming a world government is a Utopia,’ a UN worker remarked. And indeed, the fact that nations have been unwilling to give up their sovereignty to the UN, or to any other organization, underscores this conclusion. Nonetheless, those who dismiss the idea of a world government, notes Professor Berkouwer, “have the moral duty to point to other means for solving world problems. Alternative solutions are, however, not available.” Human solutions, that is. But there exists a superhuman solution. What is that?
Just as the Bible shows that the Creator is the source of the faculties that underlie human rights, it also informs us that he is the source of a world government that ensures them. This heavenly government is invisible but real. In fact, millions of people, perhaps unwittingly, pray for this world government when saying in what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) The God-appointed Head of that Kingdom government is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.—Isaiah 9:6.
This world government will succeed in creating a truly global and lasting human rights culture by, among other things, eliminating war forever. The Bible prophesies: “He [the Creator] is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the wagons he burns in the fire.”—Psalm 46:9.
How soon will this happen on a global scale? The Bible study program provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses includes a satisfying answer to this question. We encourage you to get acquainted with this program.a If you care about human rights, you will not be disappointed.
a If you wish to receive more information about this Bible educational program, contact the publishers of this magazine or Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community. The program is provided free of charge.
[Box on page 13]
The Source of Human Rights
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Human rights are thus described as a birthright that flows from parents to children, much as a river carries water to those living along its banks. Where did this river of human rights start?
According to the Universal Declaration, human beings have rights because “they are endowed with reason and conscience.” A UN publication explains: “Because man is a rational and moral being, he is different from other creatures on earth and therefore entitled to certain rights and freedoms which other creatures do not enjoy.” (Italics ours.) Thus, having reason and conscience is said to be the basis for possessing human rights. That being the case, the source of man’s reason and conscience is also the source of his human rights.
For human rights activists who adhere to biological evolution, the statement that human rights are linked to reason and conscience poses a puzzle. The proevolution book Life Ascending admits: “When we ask how a process [evolution] . . . could have generated such qualities as love of beauty and truth, compassion, freedom, and, above all, the expansiveness of the human spirit, we are perplexed.” And rightly so. After all, asserting that man’s faculty of reason and conscience springs from subhuman ancestors lacking reason and conscience themselves is like stating that a river springs from a well lacking water.
Since man’s faculties of reason and conscience cannot spring forth from a subhuman source, these faculties must originate from a superhuman source. Only humans possess the qualities linked to human rights—reason and conscience—because unlike animals, humans were created in God’s “image,” explains the Bible. (Genesis 1:27) Therefore, as the book Human Rights—Essays on Justification and Applications notes, a valid answer to the question of why people have moral rights is that “they have intrinsic worth or dignity or are . . . children of God.”
[Box/Pictures on page 14]
Education for Peace
Some years ago, while war was tearing apart the Balkans, Branko was serving as an armed guard in a clinic in the Croatian part of Bosnia.b A doctor there was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and one night he related to Branko what he had learned from this study. What Branko heard moved him to lay down his weapons. Some time later, after moving to another European country, Branko attended a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and there he met Slobodan.
Slobodan also came from Bosnia. He had participated in the same war as Branko—but in the opposite camp. Slobodan had fought for the Serbs against the Croats. By the time the two met, Slobodan had already become a Witness of Jehovah, and he offered to study the Bible with Branko, his former enemy. As the study progressed, Branko’s love for the Creator, Jehovah, grew. Before long he decided to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.c
Slobodan himself had also become a Witness with the help of a former enemy. How? Well, after leaving the war zone in Bosnia, Slobodan received a visit from Mujo, who also came from Bosnia but who had been brought up in a religion much different from Slobodan’s. Now Mujo was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though they used to be enemies, Slobodan accepted the offer from Mujo to study the Bible with him, and he later took the step of becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What caused these men to overcome deep-rooted ethnic hatred and to change from being enemies to being friends? Through their Bible study, they developed love for Jehovah. After that, they were willing to be “taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9) As Professor Wojciech Modzelewski observes about Jehovah’s Witnesses in general, “the key factor for their peaceful attitude is the idea to follow already now the principles revealed in the Bible.”
b All names mentioned in this box have been changed.
c To his delight, Branko later learned that the doctor who first talked to him became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well.
[Pictures on page 11]
A change of mind and government—will it ever happen?
U.S. National Archives photo
[Pictures on page 12, 13]
Bible-based education is causing a positive change of mind