By Bob Allen
Timed nearest to the anniversary of the Dec. 10, 1948, adoption of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Day has been sponsored for more than 20 years by the Baptist World Alliance. This year the date coincides with a BWA delegation visiting Nigeria, Dec. 4-10, to observe Human Rights Day and draw attention to episodes of violence committed by extremist rebels in northern and central Nigeria.
“As people of faith, there should be continuous encouragement to pray for and act on behalf of all people facing human rights threats and violations in different parts of the world,” Raimundo Barreto, BWA director of freedom and justice, said in a news release.
“The BWA intends to use 2012 Human Rights Day as a common day of prayer for the people of Nigeria, in light of the increasing episodes of violence in northern and central Nigeria, where more than 1,400 people have been killed in attacks by extremist groups since 2010,” Barreto said. “This environment of violence and fear inhibits individual freedom of expression and the safety to speak out against these injustices.”
A prayer guide highlights extremism and sectarian violence disproportionately affecting Christians carried out by Boko Haram, an Islamic name which roughly translated means “Western education is forbidden.” Other ills facing Nigerians include human trafficking/prostitution, bribery and corruption, poverty and domestic violence.
The idea of human rights as a moral and theological duty has been part of the Baptist World Alliance agenda since the group was organized in 1905. The BWA constitution states that one of the BWA’s main objectives is “to act as an agency of reconciliation seeking peace for all persons, and uphold the claims of fundamental human rights, including full religious liberty.”
Through its history the BWA has produced numerous statements on human rights, including support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as early as the 1950 Baptist World Congress in Cleveland.
Many BWA churches will make a symbolic contribution to that commitment this weekend by designating a specific Sunday during the year to collectively and jointly think about human rights and what they mean to those whose rights are being violated.
“Our brothers and sisters in Palestine, in Syria, in Egypt, in the DR Congo, in Nigeria, in Pakistan, in Burma/Myanmar, in Malaysia, in Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan, in India, in the Caribbean, in Latin America, in some Western European countries, and in several sectors of North American societies, particularly among ethnic and other minorities, continue to call on the Baptist global community to help them in their plight, to show love and solidarity, to remember them, and to help to empower their voices,” the BWA said.