Friday, May 09, 2014

An Answer to Pope Tawadros on the Question of Human Rights

Pope Tawadros name on paper as he was selected to be Pope

Earlier Pope Tawadros made the claim that people had a mistaken understanding with regards to human rights. He said, "When the country is subjected to violence, terrorism and crime, how can we talk about human rights at a time like this?"

This is a rhetorical question. It may have angered a great many because of what it says about the value system adopted by the pope. But anger aside, I will try and answer that question as though it wasn't rhetorical.

What is terrorism? Is it not fear that harm will befall you for no good reason? Harm is when any of your rights are violated, your right to move about freely, your right to live, your right not to be subjected to bodily harm by another human being, your right not to be humiliated and insulted through words, through racism, through sectarianism. Terrorism is when some innocent people are targeted and harmed and forced to pay a price they should not have to pay. 

If the war is on 'terror' as they say, how can that war be waged using the same exact tools that make up terror? How can you fight the violation of rights through another violation of rights? The violation of rights is what you're supposed to be fighting against, not just a change of perpetrator. There can be no moral victory when your own fight against terrorism legitimizes acts of terrorism, but only makes a claim that those who are more powerful have the right to perform it. True terrorism is related to the act itself not who performs it. By fighting terror with terror, terrorism wins, and those claiming to fight it end up contributing to it. 

So with that in mind, my answer to Pope Tawadros is, yes, now is the time to talk about human rights. I'm not certain what he meant by a mistaken understanding of human rights. How different does he think human rights values are compared to basic Christian values?  It surprises me that the Pope of all people should choose to ignore humanity at the worst times, where humanity and his own spiritual integrity is of most importance. He is not just a political figure commenting on values, he is a spiritual figure, positioned to represent and safeguard a set of values on behalf of a entire philosophy and faith. He is supposed to be the salt of the earth, but his commentary had a bitter taste instead.

So, yes, Pope Tawadros, now is the time to talk about human rights, and human values and even christian values because these are our only real weapons in the fight for our humanity, our fight for our values and our fight against terror.