December 15, 2015

The Only Real Basis for Human Rights

Post by Brittany Tedesco

A few days ago, people around the world gathered to celebrate, protest, or otherwise just acknowledge the UN-appointed "Human Rights Day." Occurring annually on December 10, it's meant to motivate people to "recommit to guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms and protecting the human rights of all."

One day later, December 11, my Internet search on the topic yielded this top headline: "Iranian woman to be stoned to death as world marks UN 'Human Rights Day.'"

Hmm. The problem with Human Rights Day is that not everyone agrees that all people should be afforded basic human rights. Why? Because not everyone agrees that all people have equal value. Ask a Muslim woman in the Middle East if she has the same value as a man.

Ask an "untouchable," the lowest caste in India, if he or she has the same value as someone in a higher caste.

If large percentages of the world's people do not believe that all people are equal and deserve 'fundamental freedoms,' where does this thought even come from?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Sound familiar? Most Americans will immediately recognize these words from the Declaration of Independence.

But what was "self-evident" to our founding fathers isn't so evident to others in the world. This noble ideal upon which the United States was built didn't just come out of the founders' brains. It came from God's Word. Shhh. . .don't tell the UN.

Take the words "created" and "Creator" out of the above statement and the statement becomes flimsy—based upon nothing.

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27 NIV).

Humans deserve human rights because they have value because they are made in God's image. I know this. You know this. But let's consider for a moment those who don't know this, those who live at the mercy of myriads of gods and goddesses, those who believe they are trapped in the dreadful cycle of reincarnation.

Imagine that you're one of these people. Now imagine that there is a magical river that will cleanse all of your sins and free you from the endless cycle of death and rebirth if you will but plunge into its waters.

Millions in India gather for the Kumbh Mela festival

The Ganges is such a river. Considered India's holiest river, millions upon millions of people come to bathe, or throw the ashes of their cremated loved ones, in its now polluted waters for spiritual purification.

The Ganges River is the main site of a Hindu festival called the Kumbh Mela. It occurs every so often, based on astrology, at four different locations. These four locations (Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Naskik) are supposedly where the Hindu god, Vishnu, spilled drops of amrita, the nectar of immortality.

The Atlantic captured photos of the Kumbh Mela gathering, with an estimated attendance of 120 million, at Allahabad in 2013. The article reads: "The Kumbh Mela lasts nearly two months and is considered to be an especially auspicious time to bathe in the holy river for purification from sin. In 2001, the last time the festival took place, more than 40 million people gathered in an area smaller than 20 sq km (7.7 sq mi)."

For millions of Indians, the journey to Kumbh Mela is burdensome and arduous. Most sleep on the ground somewhere in the vicinity of the river, crammed next to other pilgrims seeking forgiveness for their sins.

Crowds gather at the Ganges River to wash away their sins

Mark Twain was moved by the devotion of these travelers after witnessing the Kumbh Mela in 1895, though he admitted he wasn't sure if the attendees participated in the event out of love or fear. "It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining," he wrote.

The Kumbh Mela is the world's largest gathering.

"Where were the Christians during this?" asked Mohan Philip, leader of UP Mission in India, during a recent visit to Christian Aid Mission. He was specifically referring to the 2001 Kumbh Mela that occurred soon after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), backed by India's radical Hindu political party (the BJP), won the election.

The political victory only affirmed and inspired more people to participate in Hindu practices like the Kumbh Mela.

The BRICS bloc of countries

"Only 700 [Christians] responded," Philip said. "The rest were praying for back pains and neck pains and marriages while all of these people are in search of salvation and the Church is completely oblivious to the situation."

A few years later, in 2004, Indian church leaders from all denominations joined together to pray for their nation, burdened for their people, so deceived by a false religion.

Sometimes it takes a political shift to wake God's people.

There are a whole lot of political shifts happening today. As the U.S. declines as the world's superpower, other nations like India are poised to fill the void. ". . .the West no longer dominates the global markets. A global economy that follows U.S. commands is a thing of the past," writes Chris Nwosu in this Foreign Policy in Focus article.

India is one of the nations in the BRICS bloc of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) predicted by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to one day overtake the G7 (the developed countries of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.).

India is the world's largest democracy. It's on the rise economically. And yet "more than 300 million people in India still live below the poverty line," the article states.

Philip showed us photos we'd all seen before—similar but different images of squalor—children playing in filth, pathetic hovels where India's masses subsist. "20 to 30 percent live on less than $2 per day," he said.

Economic growth won't fix this glaring problem, he told us, because India lacks a biblical framework like the one upon which the U.S. was founded. "The justice system, equality in the sight of God, concern for the poor, democracy, women's rights, education—everything came out of a biblical worldview. Everything that the world enjoys today came from this. But this will not last. You've forgotten God, your foundation."

The day that other world powers, like India, eclipse the U.S. as the world's superpower, he said, is the day that the world in which we live dramatically changes. Why? Because their standards are not those based on biblical principles—the principles we in the U.S. take for granted without thought to their origin.

"That's why India is so imperative," Philip said. "God is sending out a message to the churches of the world—something is going to happen. You need to put a shoulder to the task."

India's Christian leaders are beginning to grasp the importance of the task. In 2012, 40,000 churches across India began praying every Sunday for their nation. They came to the conclusion that the task of reaching India with the gospel will only happen through the concerted, united prayers of India's believers.

That's when things began to happen.

Today in India, Philip told us, 15,000 to 20,000 people are baptized every day.

Every day in India, thousands make the decision to follow Christ and get baptized

The BJP party was defeated in 2004, only to rise again to power in 2014. India's Christians are experiencing increasing persecution and opposition from Hindus who see them as unwelcome propagators of a foreign religion.

That same year, in 2014, church leaders joined together in 1,500 locations throughout India to pray and strategize how to reach the remaining unreached people groups, burdened to see a witness for Christ among all of them before they die. North India contains the world's largest number of unreached people groups.

Are we burdened for the lost like this? Do our hearts ache for the millions wading into the Ganges, ignorant of the Savior who already paid for their sins? What about the lost in our own cities and countries?

I'll admit that my heart doesn't ache over this like I know it should. Philip was honest too. "In 2004, I was having no burden for my people," he said. Though he was involved in mission work, "it was like a job for me. I told God I might as well be in a secular job."

"You have to ask for the burden," he felt God say to his heart. And he did, and "today, it's so easy for me to cry for my people."

"So God created mankind in his own image. . ." This truth is the basis for the argument that all people should have basic human rights because it speaks of people's value in the sight of God. Should it not also be the basis upon which we plead for God to awaken our complacent hearts to the great need for the gospel among the nations?