What are the Universal Human Rights, and from Where do they Come?

Most Americans and Europeans think of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights when they think of a master statement of human rights. Americans feel special kinship to the UN and this declaration, because the US was strongly instrumental in the establishment of the UN and the composition of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNUDHR). It may be somewhat disconcerting for them to discover that there is a distinctly different view of human rights in the Islamic world. Among Muslims, for many years, the UNUDHR has been viewed as little more than a statement of Christian tradition formatted in secular language. Christians might dispute such a view, even though many Christians truly feel that the very existence of the UN is due to the activism of Christians on behalf of world peace and the human rights named in that esteemed document.

In 1990, Muslims met in Cairo and drafted a very different document on the subject of human rights – the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. This document includes named rights in language that looks quite similar to the UN listing, except for all the references to Sharia. The preamble to the CDHRI states that the document is “to affirm his freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah.” Throughout the document, language about human rights clearly does not mean anything that conflicts with Sharia Law. Article 25 says, “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.” The obvious warning here is that in order to understand CDHRI, one must understand Sharia. Few Americans do. 

The UNUDHR and the CDHRI are diametrically opposite in their meaning and purpose. These two documents demonstrate that it is possible to have a conversation in which all parties to the conversation use the same words, but completely different worldviews shape the meaning and purpose of each word. 

Christians must not be ignorant or apathetic about these differences. These two documents actually embody three different worldviews, and Christians should see them clearly. The secular worldview completely dismisses the Christian principles that led Christians to support the UNUDHR. Secularism asserts the secular view of the terms of the UNUDHR, resulting in UN sanctioned initiatives funded by the UN to encourage abortion worldwide. This action hardly comports with a Christian view of the sanctity of life, even though the very people who promote the campaigns declare that they actually believe in the sanctity of human life. 

The Christian worldview gullibly assumes that secularists who participate in such discussions mean exactly what Christians mean when they use words “life” and “liberty” and “freedom of thought;” they assume wrong. Christians will interpret the listed rights to give them freedom to speak of their religion and to encourage people to convert; secular thinkers interpret the same words so dear to Christians to mean that people should never be approached for purposes of conversion. 

 Muslims say without equivocation that they believe Sharia is the only proper basis for determining human rights. They talk about the right to own property and the freedom from fear of unwarranted arrests or beatings or torture while imprisoned, but all those rights only apply to Muslims. Non-Muslims do not have the same rights. 

Christians who do not educate themselves about the way secularists and Muslims think will find themselves outflanked and severely restricted in the expression of their faith. Secularists believe that all religions, including Islam and Christianity, are too invested in their “imaginary friends” to be taken seriously. Muslims believe that everyone in the world, including secularists and Christians, is simply misinformed about almost everything and would surely become Muslim if they ever actually understood the message.  

Christians need not go around in fear, but they should go around with their eyes open. Christians trust God and put all their faith in him. However, never at any time has faith in God meant that people had easy, safe lives. Jesus predicted, and history proves, that Christians are targets in the world of time and space. That means that Christians must be vigilant in asserting and promoting human rights. The existence of, even the enforcement of, universal human rights does not make the Christian life easy. It does make it less hard.  

Christians who trust God completely will still be scorned, shunned socially, and even arrested at times. They are certainly enduring judicial restrictions as case after case in courts demonstrates that the culture has reshaped the government to a secular worldview that means Christians do not have the right to live by their faith with the same assurance and safety they had fifty years ago.  

What human rights are universal? Where do those rights come from? Do you know? Do you know how to stand up for your rights if you are challenged? Think about it.

 

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