Let's stand up for equality, justice and human dignity


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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The following is a lightly edited version of the homily for the celebration of World Human Rights Day delivered on Sunday, December 9, 2018 at Christ Church, Vineyard Town.

THIS year, December 10, Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights to which everyone is inherently entitled as a human being, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is one of the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Human rights is the business of all human beings. How could anyone really have an issue with human rights? Everyone is entitled to all of them. And they are indivisible; we cannot share them up.

Today we meet to bring focus to human rights and to say throughout Jamaica that the church ought, of necessity, to offer its stage as a platform for the voice of the weak, the voice of the vulnerable, the voice of the downtrodden, the voice of the poor, the voice of the oppressed.

We shall continue to lift high the voices of families against violence. We shall continue to lift high the call against violence. We are a nation in crisis as we hurt ourselves.

For the Church, it is Advent time. A time of preparation for Christmas, and also for a particular focus on the presence of Christ in our lives. It is a time when the lessons call us to justice with themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.

Luke 3: 1-6: The word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' ”

I like the images of Scripture. The voice crying in the wilderness. One can see the lonely John the Baptist, and hear the lonely voice crying out in the wilderness. He calls out using the image from the making of a highway. Smooth, level, places are being made. Majestic hillsides, lush greenery and towering mountains will be seen. Beautiful pastures and orchards and farms will be seen from the highways, now that a clear way has been made through hills and valleys, and forests and mountains. Clear spaces for movement and unhindered vision.

The gospel writer is borrowing from the image of the army that has won new territory and must make a highway for the King to come into the new horizons of his Kingdom.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we hear again the use of such images of lifting valleys and cutting mountains, as we continue to seek justice for one, and justice for all.

Standing for equality, justice, and human dignity is not glamorous work. It is often done by those with a voice crying in the wilderness. Crying for change. Crying for renewal. Crying for repentance. And get this – repentance is much more than a turning away from sin. Repentance is to include a turning away from the systems of oppression which keep people in bondage. Repentance is something that is not just about individuals. Repentance is also about governments and parliaments and churches and institutions.

Repentance must involve the complete turning around in matters of governance and administration on the part of State agencies so much so that they turn away from practices of corruption and wickedness which drain the public purse and keep a nation in poverty.

Being a John the Baptist is not a glamorous thing. John would not have fit into Jamaican society at all. He was not a “gyalis”. And him chat too much. He had no woman. He had no children. He was not married. He failed to fit the requirement of the social elite. His message was about change and he understood that change to come in Jesus the Christ.

We need more people to talk out like John, though when it comes to our world, where people do not want to hear about their sins, one of the most stubborn set of people can be the religious ones. It is still mind-boggling that the religious elite are among the high percentage of voters in the USA to put in presidential office a man who has treated women with such disregard, and continues to use fear-mongering in his xenophobic rants against the poor and the oppressed who seek refuge from poverty and violence. It is shocking that Brazil has chosen a president who has no regard for sexual minorities, black people, indigenous people and, of all things, the Amazon.

We need more voices of courage. We need more voices and more action for the care and protection of the environment. We need more voices and more action for the matter of climate change. We need more voices and more action for the protection of vulnerable people everywhere. We need more voices and more action for the protection of children everywhere. We are entitled to any information regarding children in State custody; and, yes, all Jamaica must make it their business to find out what is happening with our young men who are held without charge.

Recently, at a public forum put on by Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, it was so refreshing to hear the presentations of Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns, and Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn. The public forum was about unmasking violence against women in the context of HIV & AIDS — improving the national response. Theirs was refreshing because it was clear that these two women, from differing sides of the political divide, were simply speaking in the interest of Jamaica. It is hoped that we will respond positively to Cuthbert-Flynn's call for a more mature approach to addressing the matter of women who are terminating a pregnancy, so that all concerned may benefit from protection under the law.

Let us stand with the United Nations as we all observe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all. The principles enshrined in the declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948. We need to stand up for our own rights and those of others. We can take action in our own daily lives to uphold the rights that protect us all, and thereby promote the kinship of all human beings.

This is not an easy one for some to hear, but if the kingdom of God is that great multitude that no one can number; that great multitude from every nation and tribe and language; then it includes those with different religious views and those without religious views. The new highway is one of peace and justice for all within the love of God.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all. Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day. Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values. Equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace. Whenever and wherever humanity's values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk. We need to stand up for our rights and those of others. May we stand up for equality, justice, and human dignity in Jamaica, land and people we love. Amen.

Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an advocate for human rights. Send comments to the Observer or

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