Human Rights

Yesterday I had a relative over for Sunday lunch. He professed to be very intelligent and keeps himself well informed by watching lots of SBS and ABC programs. There was a program my wife and I watched called, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ where prominent people in Australia were asked to walk in the footsteps of refugees. They met with refugees in Australia who had arrived by boat, obtained their residency and were now a part of society. They heard their stories about why they came to Australia and what it was they escaped from. They were then taken back to the places they escaped from and began their journey back to Australia as ‘refugees.’ It is a very compelling program and I recommend anyone watch it. As this was an SBS program, we brought it up for discussion. I was very surprised as to how disinterested my relative was over the issue. I am convinced we can always do more to relieve the plight of our fellow human beings and felt even more so after watching this program.

I thought I would throw in a quote from a prominent female theologian, Dorothee Solle, who says,

‘The Third World is Auschwitz.’

My relative protested at such a statement and said this is going too far, but is it?

It is a shocking and provocative statement. If we carefully think about it, I believe it is spot on. Auschwitz claimed the lives of 4 million people. In 100 days around 4 million children die of starvation. Many more die from preventable diseases. On top of this we have millions of adults who also died from starvation, lack of water, preventable diseases and war. We are horrified at what happened in Auschwitz but hardly bat an eyelid with plight of millions in the Third World. We work, we eat, we sleep, we worry about our children and we fret if things are not going well for us all in the relative safety of our Western country with all the modern facilities we take for granted. Yet for millions around the world, their lives are in absolute anarchy. You can say that the Third World is Auschwitz is a gross understatement.

I am well aware the logistics and practicality of undertaking the task of fixing the problem is huge with no real answers. However, this does not mean we ignore the problem. The challenge of sending a man to the moon was laid before the American Space Agency at the beginning of the 60’s but before the end of the decade at the cost of many millions of dollars, man first stepped on the moon. Only recently billions upon billions of dollars was spent on sending a probe to Mars and we can look in astonishment at the pictures sent back from this red planet. In the end, what does it really achieve? What seemed impossible 50 years ago is now possible. Time, energy, money, ingenuity and so on to achieve what? It is so sad that we relish in empty glory of space travel but do not find any glory in investing in our fellow human beings. It is in humanity that God is wholeheartedly invested in and it is God’s desire that the very stuff that makes Him who He is in His being, is the very thing He wants us to be.

As I have progressed with my translation work there are constant themes that stand out. The dignity, self respect and courtesy of every human being is highly valued in the eyes of God. So much so that God Himself became human for our sake and is now eternally a human being for all human beings. ‘The Word made His dwelling place in us,’ as it says in the Mirror Translation, indicates to us in a shocking way where our priorities should lie. We often take the humanity of God too lightly in its implications on the gospel. Karl Barth says it so well,

We have to regard all human beings, even the oddest, most infamous or wretched, from the point of view that, on the basis of the eternal decision of God, Jesus Christ is also their brother, God himself is also their Father. On that assumption we have to associate with them. If that is already known to them, we have to strengthen them in it. If they do not yet know it or know it no longer, it is our job to impart this knowledge to them. When the humanity of God is perceived, no other attitude is possible to any human companion. It is identical with the practical recognition of their human rights and their dignity. If we refused it to them, we should, on our side, be renouncing Jesus Christ as our brother and our God as our Father.

If we are claiming to be Christian and if we agree with Karl Barth says on the implications of the humanity of God, then we should hear the cries of those in the Third World. In fact, it is our duty that we speak on their behalf and make sure their voice is heard. Thank God there are organisations who are doing an incredible work with the very little they receive. It is such a shameful indictment on humanity where they so willingly sacrifice millions upon millions of lives for vain glory of space travel. Yet there is nothing more glorious than to see happy and smiling faces of people who have been rescued from oblivion by fellow human beings. It is right here we come close to seeing the face of God.