December 10, 2007 New York, New York, United States…PARL/ANN Staff
Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders today called for a greater emphasis on fundamental human rights, both in society and in the church.
Jonathan Gallagher, the church's liaison to the United Nations, spoke at the launch of Human Rights Day in New York, ushering in a year-long UN program designed to re-affirm rights and freedoms ahead of the 60th anniversary of the organization's Declaration of Human Rights.
“Since 1948 and the implementation of the Universal Declaration we have seen much good talk and theory, but we still have many problems in the area of human rights, Gallagher said. “All around the world people are suffering because their basic rights are being trampled on. In no area is this clearer than in religious freedom, with persecution and intolerance still high on the agenda of violations that need to be halted.”
Gallagher pointed to ongoing denials of freedom of religion in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, North Korea, the Maldives, Myanmar, Eritrea, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Turkmenistan and other central Asian countries.
“While we celebrate what has been achieved over the past 60 years since the declaration, we can't be blind to the increasing challenges to the right to freedom of belief and worship,” Gallagher said. “As a church we remain totally committed to freedom of conscience, and call on everyone to work together to make sure human rights are valued in practice, and not just in theory.”
Speaking at a pre-launch meeting on December 6, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the UN, and co-sponsor of the program, said that while “the Declaration was not the final point, and everything was not yet achieved,” the anniversary was “an opportunity to reaffirm the universality of human rights.”
At the same meeting, Craig Mokhiber, deputy director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, commented that the proposed program was “not so much a celebration but more a need for recommitment.” He added that there was “an ongoing assault on human rights,” and that if this was not tackled, then “the 60th anniversary will be more like a funeral for human rights.”