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Global Baptists Urged to Observe Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is observed on Dec. 10, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is encouraging its members to participate in the annual observance on Dec. 10 (for congregations worshipping that day) or Dec. 11 (for those that worship on Sunday).

“Baptists are encouraged to ‘stand up for someone’s rights today,’ this year’s Human Rights Day theme, by being living witnesses of Proverbs 31:8-9: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy,” a BWA news release noted.

Brian Kaylor, the newly named editor and president of Word & Way, cited Baptists “rich history of advocating for the rights of minorities” in encouraging participation in this annual observance.

“While Baptists in the U.S. now enjoy a status as a dominant group, our brothers and sisters in several countries currently suffer harassment, persecution and even violence,” he said. “In multiple countries, preachers and lay leaders are beaten, fined and jailed merely for sharing their faith or holding worship services.”

Kaylor, who also serves as associate director at Churchnet, urged, “We must use our voices to speak for and with those whose basic human and religious rights are denied by governments.”

Elijah Brown, general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship, told EthicsDaily.com, “Human Rights Day is a reminder that our glorification of God is not just an upward spiritualized reflection but intimately connected to our enacted commitment to peace on earth.”

He called the annual observance “an opportunity to affirm our biblical mandate to pursue justice, build upon our collective legacy of public square engagement, live into a deep connectivity to those around us whether they be a hungry neighbor down the street or imprisoned around the world for their faith, and most of all it is an opportunity to realign our priorities in celebration of God.”

Brown, who also serves as executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, added, “Celebrating BWA Human Rights Day – through prayers, liturgy, focused sermons and gifts of time and ability – is an opportunity this Christmas season to once again close the gap between right intentions and right action.”

The late Baptist ethicist Glen Stassen spoke about the Baptist legacy of promoting and defending human rights in a 2012 interview with EthicsDaily.com.

“What Baptists need to know is that the first comprehensive doctrine of human rights in history was written by a Baptist, Richard Overton. He was part of the Smyth group … that joined the Waterlander Mennonite Church,” he said. “And he was influenced … by the original Baptist push for the human rights to religious liberty.”

“It is our baby. We need to defend human rights,” Stassen added. “The struggle for human rights is our Baptist struggle.”