As all people of good will around the world unite to recognize United Nations Human Rights Day 2012, The World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO) joins its voice, thought and prayer to the call for all human beings to be accorded basic human rights, including the right of profound dignity from the moment of conception to natural death. Further, we note the need for a reality where all persons will have access to what they require in order to make their unique contribution to our world.
As we approach the 50th Anniversary of Blessed Pope John XXIII’s groundbreaking encyclical, Pacem in Terris, it serves us well on UN Human Rights Day to reflect on some of the basic rights noted in that document: The Right to Existence and a Basic Standard of Living which include the Right to Life as well as to food, clothing, shelter, social services, medical care, and education. He went on to note the basic rights of respect, freedom of speech and publication, freedom to worship, freedom to assemble, freedom to choose one’s employment and freedom to choose one’s state in life.
Another great document in support of basic human rights to which we are inevitably drawn on this UN Human Rights Day is that of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Born out of the misery generated by the Second World War, the Declaration became a reality in 1948 and is regarded as the foundation of international human rights law. We recall here Article 3 of that document that states, Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
The Right to Life, stated in this wise document, must be safeguarded, particularly today when many countries interpret this to mean that only life considered desirable is guaranteed. WUCWO Resolutions 4 and 11 adopted at the WUCWO Centennial General Assembly in 2010 in Jerusalem call for a Campaign for a Culture of Life and a Mobilization to Halt Infanticide. How much more in synch with the words of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights are these WUCWO Resolutions than the cry for abortion made in recent documents under the guise of reducing maternal mortality. “Everyone has the right to life…” – from the moment of conception to natural death. The right to Life is the most basic of human rights. Indeed, the Preamble of the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child states, “…the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
As we contemplate the very basic human right to life and the rights of the child, we arrive at another essential right, one necessary to continue human life on this earth: The right to Marriage and a Family. Preparations are now underway for the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations’ International Year of the Family. Again, we turn to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a statement on the right to marry and found a family and we are not disappointed for Article 16 clearly states:
1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage, and at its dissolution.
2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
The World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations echoes this call for protection of the family in its Resolution 12 that states an affirmation of the family unit and requests that, “… governments and civil society authorities give clear and unambiguous support in defense of heterosexual monogamous marriage. Further, that those governments acknowledge and affirm the parents’ right to protect their children from external influences that seek to negate parental responsibility and which may be detrimental to relationships within that Family Unit.” WUCWO’s Resolution 5 supports the second clause above and the rights of children in that it calls for abolishing forced marriage: “WUCWO, as a Public International Association of the Faithful, will uphold the dignity and rights of women and children by making a strong statement against forced marriage of girl-children.” this is not difficult to observe that WUCWO’s Resolutions and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights resonate with the same ideals and concerns.
Founded in 1910, the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations, representing millions of women in over 60 countries, has always fought for and upheld human rights. We are pleased to add our work and our praise for all efforts to support human rights, especially as we join in the celebration of the United Nations Human Rights Day 2012. May all persons on our Earth experience those human rights so eloquently stated in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights authored over 60 years ago. Much work has been done to realize that goal but much work remains. Let us continue this task until all persons on earth live in dignity and peace.