December is Human Rights Month and December 10 is Human Rights Day. It is observed every year on this day since 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In recognition of this notable achievement, for the month of December I will be posting a series of blogs, “Towards Human Rights.” The purpose of this blog series is to make the case for the implementation and acceptance of human rights as a global values system. It is based on my Human Rights: Towards a Universal Values System?
“…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.” … Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
Towards Human Rights as a Global Values System, part 10
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
A History and Philosophy of Human Rights: The Judeo-Christian Tradition
Judaism is a religious tradition that has contributed to the body of human rights. The three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—believe that only one God exists. The early followers of Judaism believed that each person can have a personal relationship with God and that he is both merciful and loving, as well as metes out punishment to those who disobey his commands. Also important is the idea of individual worth, which is different from the emphasis on the group. The concept of individualism, important in the West, had its roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Obedience to the law of God became a key element of Judaic beliefs. Although each person had the ability to choose between good and evil, no person could devise his/her own ethical and moral standards. People had to follow certain standards. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, God made known his commandments, his ideals of right behavior, to Moses on Mount of Sinai around 1380 BCE.
The Ten Commandments, according to tradition, were etched onto two stone tablets to
show their unchanging nature. They are a list of religious and moral rules that Judeo-Christians accept as God’s ethical standards; if not then punishment and suffering will follow. Judaism and Christianity accept the Ten Commandments as their moral foundation, and they are important to Islam as well. Various religious groups translate and divide the Ten Commandments differently; the following is the Catholic/Lutheran shortened version.
The Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord your God, You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God.
3. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not murder (kill).
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. End]
About the Author:
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more information about the topic of human rights see Dr. Ames’ book Human Rights: Towards a Global Values System, $17.95, 225 pgs. Also available on Amazon.