“Everyone has a right to peaceful coexistence, the basic personal freedoms, the alleviation of suffering, and the opportunity to lead a productive life.”
—Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
Tomorrow is Human Rights Day. This day, which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1950, is a wonderful reminder to each of us to devote some of our Focused Attention throughout the year to the worldwide pursuit of personal freedom and justice. It marks the anniversary of the presentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which can be read in English by following this link: www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth UN Secretary-General, stated, “It has long been recognized that an essential element in protecting human rights was a widespread knowledge among the population of what their rights are and how they can be defended.” I wonder just how many of the world’s population have had a chance to read this all-important declaration, but more importantly, how many are sadly denied these rights across the planet and how many live in fear of our fellow human beings rather than in peaceful cohabitation.
Our world has human rights organizations and movements both on national and and international levels, and we each have the opportunity to devote some of our resources to them if we choose. These large-scale steps toward peace, freedom, and justice are all meaningful and purposeful endeavors. Every effort counts, big and small, from our homes and in our communities—it all matters very much.
Our first step toward change can be as simple as acknowledging the rights of others to do and be what and who they are without prejudice or judgment—even when we might not agree with them. We are faced every day with people who have different ideas, traditions, styles, and personalities. What would happen if we cultivated the habit of honoring all people’s rights to their own viewpoints and actions? A ripple effect of allowing differences would reach our children and teach them to approach others with tolerance and compassion as they move through our world, and one day we will all live in peace, harmony, and freedom.
Having tolerance and compassion does not mean turning a blind eye toward injustice. When we talk about accepting others, it is not about condoning the behavior of an individual or a group if it violates one or more of the basic human rights of another. This is precisely why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is so essential in our understanding of what constitutes a human right: that which we are utterly and unequivocally each entitled to throughout our lifetimes.
His Holiness the Dalai Llama says, “All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned or tortured . . . We must, therefore, insist on a global consensus, not only on the need to respect human rights worldwide, but also on the definition of these rights . . . for it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity, and they have an equal right to achieve that.”
So, on this eve of Human Rights Day, I would like to invite you to spend a little quiet time feeling in your heart what this idea of human rights means to you. I founded the non-profit Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life as a movement dedicated to bringing together human beings through love, compassion, empowerment, and strength. Join the movement today and become a Peace Ambassador dedicated to the pursuit of outer peace through inner peace.