“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”
No one could speak to the concept of human rights more than someone who has gone face to face with the darkest sides of the human experience, endured the most abusive treatment, and come out at the end with their spirit, soul, and humanity still beautifully intact than Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela, born Rolihlahla and also known as Madiba by Black South Africans, was a South African scholar, freedom fighter, former President, and Nobel Prize recipient. His legacy remains a heroic testament to the power of the human spirit and an international champion for human rights.
This December is Universal Human Rights Month. A month where we remember him and many other activists and phenomenal spirits alike, take their stories and examples, and reflect on the different ways we can respect and value one another to create a better world for us all.
Universal Human Rights Month
Originating in 1948, right after World War II, the United Nations crafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document went on to become the global standard for human rights respect, recognition, and also its importance.
The opening article states:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Why Is This Important – A Perspective
All of the atrocities that have ever occurred throughout history have a common gruesome connecting thread – the denial of human rights and dignity. Unfortunately, those who have committed such crimes and abuses have always attempted to justify them. Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability, and nationality have all been used to justify hate, abuse, and all forms of inhuman treatment. Our history books are filled with these dark moments in human history – slavery, the holocaust, internment camps, ethnic genocide, the refusal of voting rights, etc.
We’ve seen a rise in these atrocities and attitudes today. In a time where we have access to so much information, and so many different ways to understand one another and connect, we are experiencing a heightened trend of division, fear, and anger.
We see it around us, on our social media timelines, we know these stories and the histories very well, and although combating such a force seems intimidating, we can all fight together, each one doing our part to affirm our shared humanity.
What Can We Do?
This month – Universal Human Rights Month – we can all decide to make a change. Through all the protests, “different sides”, and chaos around us, remember that at the core, what people want are basic human rights. The right to protection, love, opportunity, fairness, justice, choices, and the human right of self-determination to create the best present and future possible for ourselves and our loved ones.
If we can disconnect from the tension – or at least try – and put the phones down, turn the TV off, and realize that we are more alike than we are different, we can see ourselves in one another and recognize our common humanity and that we all deserve equal human rights.
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”
We can all do something to create a better society. This Universal Human Rights Month, volunteer your time, make a donation, do something daily that’s nice and considerate for someone else – it’s the internal commitment to do small things, done by everyone, that become the massive shift the world needs.
We can do it – but we can only do it together.