Pritam K. Rohila, Ph.D. : In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army killed about 200,000 Chinese civilians and raped many of their women.
During Nazi rule in Germany, from 1933 through 1945, Jews and other “non-Aryan” races were subjected to various atrocities, which included segregation, forced sterilization, cruel “scientific” experimentation, and finally extermination in gas chambers.
Moved by such crimes against humanity, the United Nations General Assembly, on December 10, 1948, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As the very first worldwide assertion of basic human rights, the Declaration was accepted as “a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.”
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood,” asserted its first Article.
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” declared Article 3.
“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law,” proclaimed Article 7.
In this manner the Declaration set out various basic human rights in its 30 Articles.
But in spite of the Declaration, some discriminatory and sometimes even barbaric practices, continued. Since 1948, millions of people have been killed in various wars and conflicts.
No longer feeling secure in their own homes, millions of people have been forced by current wars and conflicts, to walk thousands of miles across unknown seas and lands, to seek refuge in far-away lands. According to the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are nearly 20 million refugees and 40 million displaced people.
Women in many parts of the world are still being denied even some of the very basic human rights. In some countries, they cannot even venture out without being accompanied by a male. Even in the United States many women are paid less than their male counterparts.
Torture, rape and mass murder by terrorist organizations like Boko Haram and Islamic State continue to brutalize minorities in parts of Africa and Asia.
Rohingya Muslims and Tamil Hindus are being terrorized by some extremist Buddhists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka
Muslims in India are forced to keep a low profile. A Muslim boy in India was recently lynched by some Hindu zealots, because he had been suspected of having consumed beef.
Like Muslims in India, African-Americans have difficulty finding housing in “nice” neighborhoods, in the United States.
Also in the United States, African-Americans continue to be unfairly targeted by law enforcement officials. Two-fifths of all drug offenders in the U.S. state and federal prisons are African-Americans. And as compared to other racial groups, many of the African-Americans end up serving harsh mandatory minimum drug sentences.
Even Planned Parenthood clinics have been terrorized by some extremist individuals and organizations.
The preceding instances clearly indicate that we have a long way to go before the Declaration becomes a reality in our life and in the life of others around us. And until this goal is realized, let us pledge to work harder in its pursuit.
Dr. Pritam Rohila is a retired Neuropsychologist and Chair of Oregonians for Peace.