As we celebrate the 1948 Universal Declaration of HUMAN RIGHTS, we recall what our country has been through and on account of which the Church in the Philippines has issued its statements and exhortations, such as against arbitrary arrests and detentions, liquidations and salvaging, secret marshals and para-military forces, persecution and killings of church personnel, ministers and journalists, extra-judicial killings of protesters and defenders of their rights, all committed and perpetrated in the name, in those days, of national security and development.
Today, with all advocates and victims of Human Rights, in this Year of Social Concerns, we are raising again our concern regarding practically the same issues: various killings without benefit of court-trials. Has the situation in fact improved or become worse? And why are advocates, defenders and beneficiaries of agrarian reform being harassed and killed? And how many prisoners are languishing in jail without the benefit of defense or beyond the length of time that will be imposed if their cases were heard on time.
The advocates of Human Rights and Peace have to forge a strong network of “social solidarity” as the moral bastion of the “power of the powerless,” who are “the least of our brethren.”
On this occasion of Human Rights Day, we are invited to look at the big picture. In the Encyclical “Centissimus Annus” Servant of God, Pope John Paul II has drawn up a list of them for our individual and collective examination of conscience: “the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality; the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth; the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth’s material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one’s dependents; and the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one’s sexuality. In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person.” (Centessimus Annus, 47: AAS 83 (1991)
Recalling the statement of Pope John Paul II before UNESCO in 1980, Pope Benedict XVI called for “a mobilization in defense of Human Rights” (June 2, 2005 (WNews.com).
Peace can only be attained in the atmosphere of a local and global advocacy of Human Rights, where the promotion and defense of which have become more complex and difficult. That is why there is need for an ever stronger solidarity among human rights advocates, peace advocates and all people of good will. It is in this atmosphere which includes the dismantling of self-interest, we can have genuine economic development, we have been longing for so long a time. It is in the atmosphere of political stability that economy and business prosper and develop.
May God who shows us the vision of a social order founded on truth, justice and love (Gaudium et Spes, no. 26), guide our steps in the way of peace.
+ ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, DD
Archbishop of Jaro &
December 9, 2006