Church challenged to new strides for human rights
by Nan Cobbey and Nicola Currie
Serious human-rights violations were addressed yesterday as the Lambeth Conference received resolutions and Section One's report, ``Human Rights and Human Dignity.'' In the morning plenary bishops agreed to Section One resolutions endorsing ``Affirmation and Adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights'' (1.1), ``Religious Freedom and Tolerance'' (1.2), ``Justice for Women and Children'' (1.3), ``Faithful Response to Aggression and War''(1.4), and ``Uprooted and Displaced Persons'' (1.5). (For resolution texts, please see page 2.)
On ``the Plight of the People of Northern and Western Uganda'' (1.6), it was agreed that the resolution would be brought for debate after an interjection from a Ugandan bishop who wanted to change the wording to take into account local understanding of the situation. Resolution 1.6 will therefore come before bishops again in a future plenary. On ``the Plight of the People of the Sudan and Rwanda'' (1.7), the bishops agreed to amend the resolution to add Burundi to the countries listed. The amendment came after an interjection from Bishop Michael Nuttal (Natal, Southern Africa) on the Resolutions Committee.
The human-rights resolutions were drafted by bishops working in Section One's Subsection on Human Rights and Human Dignity, chaired by Bishop Sehon Goodrich (Windward Islands, West Indies); some sessions were chaired by Bishop Kenneth Fernando (Colombo, Ceylon).
Anglican peacemaking role
In a draft report that is both horrifying and compelling, the subsection challenges the Anglican Communion to continue its heritage as a Church of peacemakers and prophets. In their seven-page report, the 46 bishops in the subsection tell chilling tales of abuses around the worldwomen raped, children sold into slavery, mass killings in churches, whole communities driven off their land. They include graphic descriptions of inhumanity, such as the story one bishop told of young people who travelled to Sudan from Uganda for his consecration. ``On their return they were arrested and their left ears cut off because they were not `listening to the words of the Koran,''' he said. ``Before they were released they were forced to eat their own ears.''
Women and children victimised
In the 50th anniversary year of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the bishops express shock about how war and violence, racism and abuse of economic and political power continue to severely victimise women and children. From Sudan, Uganda, South East Asia, Sri Lanka ``and across the countries of the `South' [came] accounts of the sexual torture and genital mutilation of women, and the inability or unwillingness of people to fight for its elimination...These abuses of basic rights and dignity of people loved by God and created in God's image bring shame on the whole human community,'' the report states. The report mentions the widening gap between rich and poor, indigenous people and their need for advocacy, the downside of the global economy, the devastating effect of war-arms trade, landmines, displaced and uprooted peoples. It also asserts the ``urgent need'' to preserve the rights of all people to freedom of belief and conscience.
In addition, the report spells out the ``sinful consequences'' of racist and cultural divisions: genocide in Rwanda, communities threatened with annihilation, and Sri Lankans who ``disappear.'' It names racism as a ``heretical ideology,'' a ``false religion'' and a threat to peace, and it reminds Anglicans of their history as peacemakers and witnesses who accepted no such injustice. ``Anglicans...have been and are being martyred,'' the report states. ``We think of the martyrdom of the late Ugandan Archbishop, Janani Luwum, the faithful witness of Archbishop George Browne at the height of the civil war in Liberia, the prophetic witness of DesmondTutu in opposition to apartheid in south Africa, the peace efforts of the Anglican bishops in Jerusalem...Bishop Dinis Sengulane in Mozambique.''
report calls the Communion to go beyond living and preaching the gospel to protect
human rights by monitoring activities of governments and by providing the prophetic
witness only the ``Church as moral community'' can.
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