Today is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a document that has had a profound affect globally on human dignity. Despite 60 years of clearly defined and generally accepted freedoms, we are still struggling to meet the standards set down in that Declaration. Today is a particularly crucial time in our nation’s history to recommit ourselves to upholding human rights.
From the shooting death of a teenager near Athens that sparked ongoing riots to the beating death of a Brooklyn man for being, what his attackers assumed, an immigrant and gay, we are inundated daily with stories of human rights violations. Sometimes so much so, I think we forget that these stories describe infringements on the basic human freedoms that our country was founded on and we have fought to give to others around the world. The most universal of these is the freedom to live and to do so peacefully.
Perhaps the most wide-spread human rights violations involve human trafficking - forcing human beings into slavery and servitude. This is not just a human rights issue, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that is widespread in developing nations, but also right here in the United States.
The slavery and trafficking of human beings can be combated through rescue, rehabilitation and enforcement of human rights laws, but addressing the conditions that make a person vulnerable to exploitation is equally important. Victims are often displaced peoples, either from war, economics or forced migration. If a society does not provide pathways for refugees and immigrants to protect their human rights, then exploitative forces often move in to take advantage of these populations.
As individuals blessed with many freedoms there is much we can to do to protect and empower the oppressed. But we can’t each address every issue. In honor of Human Rights Day we should all choose just one human rights issue to support. Support doesn’t have to come in the form of money either, volunteering, writing letters, and petitioning are just a few of the ways we can help. Working together we can make universal freedom a reality.