Baha'i vision of human rights


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Baha'i vision of human rights

  1. 1.  A Bahá'íVision of Human Rights Toward A Bahá'í Conception of Human Well-being TEB Presentation Southern Flame Bahá'í Summer School Fruitland Park, FL July 3, 2013 J. Terry Edwards, PhD
  2. 2. What Are Human Rights?  By far the best known statement of human rights is the 1947 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. The preamble begins,  Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,  Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…  The world has witness the truth of these words in the decades since 1947.
  3. 3. Universal Declaration of the UN  The preamble concludes,  THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.  United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (, accessed 7/24/12); emphasis in original.
  4. 4. Universal Human Rights (1)  All people are entitled to the enumerated rights “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”  Slavery is prohibited.  No one shall be subjected to “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment…”  Everyone has a right to the protection of law.
  5. 5. Universal Human Right (2)  No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.”  Everyone is entitled to freedom of movement including the right to emigrate.  Everyone has the right to a nationality.  Everyone has the right to marry and have a family.  Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  6. 6. Universal Human Rights (3)  Everyone has the right to own property.  “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…”  Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” As well as the right to not be forced to join a group or association.  Everyone has the right to take part in their government.
  7. 7. Universal Human Rights (4)  “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization … of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”  Everyone has the right to work.  Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for “the health and well-being of himself and of his family … “  Mothers and children are entitled to “special care and assistance.”  Everyone has the right to education.
  8. 8. Purpose & Source of Human Rights  During the discussions leading up to the adoption of the UN Declaration, the Baha’i International Community (BIC) presented A Baha’i Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. That statement begins,  The source of human rights is the endowment of qualities, virtues and powers which God has bestowed upon mankind without discrimination of sex, race, creed or nation. To fulfill the possibilities of this divine endowment is the purpose of human existence.
  9. 9. Bahá'í Human Rights and Responsibilities  In presenting an integrated understanding of human rights, the Bahá’í International Community offered a spiritually based conception of rights and responsibilities.  The Bahá’í Faith considers human rights to be an essential element of justice because they contribute to an individual’s ability to put herself on a path of spiritual attainment and to be of service to humanity.  In contrast to the UN’s Universal Declaration the Bahá'í vision of human rights includes personal responsibility.
  10. 10. What Are Bahá'í Human Rights?  Humans are spiritual.  The family is the fundamental social institution.  Community rights are superior to racial rights.  Work is fundamental to individuals and to society  Universal education is necessary.  Freedom of worship or conscious is fundamental.
  11. 11. Bahá'í SpiritualWell-being  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told us, “The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds.”  Enabling such service calls for a special kind of personal spiritual well-being, one that gives everyone the capacity to be a functioning member of society and the capacity to develop and use their capabilities in the service of God and humanity.  The promotion of this spiritual well-being is the purpose of universal human rights.
  12. 12. Where Do Human Rights Come From?  Human rights come about, “when members of the community realize that the gift of life and conscious being obligates them to meet the responsibilities owed to God, to society and to self.”  Universal human rights and responsibilities result from an acceptance of rights for ourselves and our obligation for the provision of rights to all others as well as our duty to God. In other words, rights are part and parcel of God’s covenant with humanity.  Bahá’í International Community, A Baha’i Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights (Presented to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Lake Success, NY, USA, February, 1947).
  13. 13. The BIC Speaks Out  Since its initial statement in 1947, the BIC has spoken out on all of the human rights issues that have come before the UN including: eliminating religious intolerance, women’s rights, the protection of minorities, the obstacles to progress in the provision of human rights, the rights of children, the elimination of racism, the rights of indigenous peoples, the human rights of the disabled, the right to development, creating violence free families, the promotion of universal education, overcoming corruption and the lack of integrity in public institutions.
  14. 14. Why Are Rights Important?  According to the BIC, “A right attains social status only after it has become a moral value asserted and maintained as a necessary quality of human relationships by the members of the community.”  Bahá’í International Community, A Bahá'í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights (Lake Success, NY: Presented to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, February, 1947; BIC Document #47-0200).
  15. 15. What Are the Properties of Rights?  A right is an entitlement given or provided by someone to someone else.  Many, but not all rights are inherent in our understanding of what it means to be human.  Rights are life-goods. In other words, what is morally good in life partially determines what we have rights to.  The goods implicit in human rights are superior to other goods, i.e., they are trumps.  Finally, a right establishes what it is to be wronged.
  16. 16. Who Is Responsible for Rights?  Article 28 of the Universal Declaration states, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”  This right gives personal entitlement to an international order that supports these rights.  This statement implies that the responsibility for enforcing or providing universal right lies with the nation-state.
  17. 17. Who Is Responsible?  In this globalized world the assumption of the UN Declaration is that its member states are the responsible parties is too parochial a point-of-view. In fact responsibility for rights goes well beyond the nation.  For example, corporations that sell goods in the US and Europe have a responsibility to workers wherever the manufacturing takes place for the wages and working conditions of its suppliers.  Many NGOs have come into being to implement various rights.
  18. 18. What DoesThis Add UpTo?  Let’s have a discussion of what a Bahá'í theistic conception of what human well-being is. 1. What is a Bahá'í conception of human well-being? 2. Given a Bahá'í understanding of human well-being, does the BIC statement of 1947 need to be updated?