Baptist churches around the world will focus worship services this weekend on the biblical demand to stand up for human rights.
The Baptist World Alliance, an organization of 235 member bodies representing 45 million Baptists around the globe, sponsors Human Rights Day each year on the weekend nearest the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.
This year’s theme, to be observed Sunday, Dec. 11, and in churches that worship on Saturday, Dec. 10, encourages global Baptists to be “living witnesses” of Proverbs 31:8-9: “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.”
Darrell LaRue Armstrong, the BWA’s chief administrative officer at the UN, called it a theme “embedded in the fiber of the day.”
“Loosely and swiftly stated, the theme is standing up for your rights and helping others to do that,” Armstrong, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, N.J., said in a recent BWA podcast.
“In places around the world, how do we promote civil society, religion and faith-based NGOs, governments, world religions and different denominations to be the voice of this?” said Armstrong, a BWA representative to the UN for three years named to the top spot in March.
“I like to say the least, the last and the lost,” Armstrong said. “Jesus was very clear about us, one, putting others before ourselves and, two, praying for our brothers and sisters, but also taking action.”
The worship emphasis coincides with UN observance of Human Rights Day each year on Dec. 10. This year’s theme “calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights.”
“Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading,” according to a UN events page. “Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be widespread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.”
“On Human Rights Day, let us recommit to guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms and protecting the human rights of all,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
“It’s time for each of us to step up for human rights,” added Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “There is no action that is too small: wherever you are, you can make a difference. Together, let’s take a stand for more humanity.”
BWA leaders hope for record participation by Baptists worldwide observing Human Rights Day as part of the Advent celebration. Worship resources for the emphasis are available on the BWA website.