Universal Human Rights Month
“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.”
Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights[i]
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) remains as relevant today as it was on December 10, 1948, when it was proclaimed and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
The declaration writers showed extraordinary vision and resolve in producing the UDHR. For the first time, it articulated the rights and freedoms to which every human being is equally and inalienably entitled. These rights should be honored regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status.
Why Should We Honor Universal Human Rights Month?
We have seen our share of injustice, divisiveness, cruelty, and hate. Our society can do better, and as Christians, we know God commands us to do considerably better in the Bible. Valley Christian Schools joins the world in observing Universal Human Rights Month in December. This month is a reminder that the United Nations General Assembly codified every person’s fundamental human rights. It’s also a time to reflect on how the Bible advocates for human rights and how God wants us to treat others. The evidence of God’s original design for honoring all people is also reflected in the UDHR.
Valley Christian Schools represents a culturally diverse community of students, families, faculty, and staff representing many nations, ethnicities, cultures, and languages. Our Biblical Unity principles[i] declare our school communities as places that welcome all people of diverse origins. Together, we are a tapestry of God’s children that reveal His beauty.
The Bible and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Carter Center published the Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights[ii] in 2018 to highlight the connection between the Bible and the contemporary articulation of human rights in the UDHR. In Christianity and, more specifically, in the Bible, we see the ultimate source of universal human rights. While several declarations in the UDHR align with the Bible, not all the declarations do. Author David Gushee comments there is a profound and visible unity at the level of moral principles[iii]. The UDHR confirms human freedom, human dignity, human equality, and the immeasurable value of human life as described initially in the Bible.
The UDHR is consistent with the Bible in reflecting some of Christianity’s deepest theological convictions. Gushee notes the irony is that the declaration avoids any theological claims about God.[iv] The UDHR is a worthy humanitarian document but is not on par with the Bible, where we find the ultimate source of universal human rights. All humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27-28). If humans are made in the image of God, then it is reasonable to think that a part of having his image is to act in a way that reflects his character. The God of the Bible is just, condemns evil, and has compassion for all.
Valley Christian Schools follows the Bible’s teachings and seeks to honor all people in just and compassionate ways. We believe in Jesus’ teachings that we should love our neighbors and enemies (Matthew 5:43-44) because everyone is worthy of belonging in the Kingdom of God (Galatians 3:26-28). It is evident across the biblical books that God wants people to show just treatment of every human being. Gushee comments that God wants people to serve Him by creating churches and organizations that embody justice in their own communal lives and advance justice in the public arena.iv
The Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Carter Center uses a biblical lens to analyze the UDHR. The authors draw connections and comparisons finding compelling evidence for the heart of God’s compassion for human rights at the personal and community level written into the declarations. Articles 1 and 2 are shown below as an example.
Article 1 Compared with Genesis and Galatians
Article 1, quoted in the opening paragraph, 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.”
In biblical terms, the moral status of human beings is exalted; as written in Genesis 1:26-27 human beings are made in the divine image of God. The Carter Center notes one interpretation of being made in the image of God emphasizes specific God-like human capacities, such as moral freedom, reason, conscience, and love. Another interpretation emphasizes the elevated moral status of being made in God’s image, such as an intrinsic or God-given dignity. Finally, the fact that Genesis 1 applies the divine image to everyone speaks to a basic, fundamental human equality — everyone has an equal measure of God’s image.
The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:13-14 that freedom, equality, and dignity are bestowed on all by virtue of being human, made in the image of God. He reminds us that we do not earn these rights by anything we can do but only by God’s divine decree. Paul repeats God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” for the unselfish reasons to serve God and others.
Article 2 Compared with Exodus and Galatians
Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms outlined in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
In Exodus 23, God gives the Israelites instructions on maintaining justice for all. This chapter lists acts that must be and not be done. The contrasting writing declares how God wants to prepare a safe and equitable space for all who inhabit the land. The Carter Center states the passage aims at nurturing a community where people will act justly, even when it is not based on their preferences or narrow self-interest.
“[F]or in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28 ESV).
Writing to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul powerfully expresses the equality and unity of all people in Christ. We can extend the meaning of “all people” to all human beings, regardless of who they were before choosing to be Christian. There are no distinctions between humans that could ever make any group of higher value than any other. Differences such as race, ethnicity, wealth, class, social status, gender and gender expression, cannot affect our equality before God or the amount of love God has for us.
In this summary comparison, the first two articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reveal a solid connection to the Bible. It provokes thought and prayerful consideration of God’s desire for all humans to live equally and thrive under his righteous care.
The Carter Center emphasizes that although the UDHR is a nonsectarian document, Christians and persons of many religious faiths and no faith have embraced it because they see the truth of its claims and the wisdom of its aspirations. The UDHR resonates with Christians because of the striking correlations between the human rights it declares and the most profound principles and themes of the Bible.
At Valley Christian Schools, we hope to generate fruitful deliberation, reconsideration, debate, and dialogue, contributing to a more just, peaceful, and compassionate society as God intended. The Christian’s response to human rights is not solely dependent on man’s efforts but on extending Jesus Christ’s compassion to everyone.
Why Universal Human Rights Month Is Important
- It allows us to reflect. Human Rights Month is an important celebration for Christians it allows us to recognize God’s design for the dignity of every person and look back on how we’ve treated our fellow human beings.
- It reminds us of our ideals. As a society, these include individual freedoms which we must fight to protect. As a Christian school, these include the VCS Biblical Unity principles.
- It empowers us. The principles of human rights in the Bible are still relevant today and is empowered by the Bible verse “...loving your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31).
- It helps us see the world with God’s eyes. We are all created equal.
How to Honor Universal Human Rights Month
- Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published by the Carter Center, Atlanta, GA. UN Illustrated version of the UDHR
- Do some volunteering. At VCS, students can complete high school service hours with community organizations and churches.
- Sponsor or support a VCS campus lesson, project, or event. You can have a special assembly or base your lessons around the International Declaration of Human Rights. Students can celebrate specific individuals who have promoted Human Rights over the years.
Educational Resources for Universal Human Rights Month
- TED-Ed “What are the universal human rights? - Benedetta Berti” https://youtu.be/nDgIVseTkuE
- TEDx “Respecting the differences between people | Mariana Chartier | TEDxYouth@BSCR” https://youtu.be/_qtpmi4yzSs
- United Nations Teaching Guides and Resources for Human Rights [https://www.un.org/en/%E2%80%9Cclose-home%E2%80%9D-universal-declaration-human-rights-0]
- Christian Human Rights Education by Justice Revival
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8 NIV).
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV).
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all,” (Colossians 3:11 NIV).
In your kingdom, Lord,
there are no differences in honor
between rich and poor,
have and have-not,
male and female,
adult and child.
All are accepted
as equal in value in Christ Jesus
loved and respected
for the people they are,
embraced for the life
that they share with you.
May it be so here, Lord,
within our families,
cities, towns and villages,
and be reflected in the lives
of those who govern this land.
The Carter Center. Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Carter Center, Atlanta, GA, 2018. https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/peace/human_rights/universal-declaration-human-rights-scriptually-annotated.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2022.
Green, Lauren, and Michael McAfee. “The Bible’s Impact on Human Rights.” Christianity Today, Christianity Today, June 28, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/not-what-you-think-michael-lauren-mcafee.html. Accessed November 21 2022.
Gushee, David P. “The UN Declaration of Human Rights and Christian Faith – Part 1.” Good Faith Media, December 10, 2018, https://goodfaithmedia.org/the-un-declaration-of-human-rights-and-christian-faith-part-1/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
Gushee, David P. “The UN Declaration of Human Rights and Christian Faith – Part 2.” Good Faith Media, December 11, 2018, https://goodfaithmedia.org/the-un-declaration-of-human-rights-and-christian-faith-part-2/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
“Illustrated Version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Illustrated by Yacine Ait Kaci, United Nations, United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/udhrbook/#42.
“Universal Human Rights Month - December.” National Today, National Today, March 8 2022, https://nationaltoday.com/universal-human-rights-month/.
For More Information
Look for monthly cultural and heritage celebration updates on the VCS Biblical Unity page. Contact Dr. Steven J. McGriff, Director of Biblical Unity, Valley Christian Schools [firstname.lastname@example.org]