70th Anniversary of U.N. Human Rights Charter

Source:  October 2015 pg. 21 http://www.Diplomatist.com

From the wrought iron gates of Auschwitz, to the hot gates of Srebrenica, we continually witness man hunting his fellow man.  If life is Hobbesian, then man isn’t at home in this world.  A profound, and lasting evil continues to haunt, and it must be vanquished.

Who among us will assume the burden of witnessing the plight of the refugee; of hunted children and worn out men.

Is there no limit to the depravity man imposes on his brethren?

The world’s architects assign pithy pronouncements heralding the gift of enclosed space, a monument or statute bearing remembrance.  Who remembers the plight of those unhoused in this world?  The asylum seeker, those persecuted for their identity; criminalization of political, ethnic and religious differences has pedigree.  Dostoevsky:

“This was a time, when, all things tending fast

            to depravation, speculative themes –

            that promised to abstract the hopes of man

             Out of his feelings, to be fixed thenceforth

             Forever in a purer element –

            Found ready welcome.  Tempting region that

             For Zeal to enter and refresh herself

             Where passions had the privilege to work,

             And never hear the sound of their own names.”

At the end of the second World War, the victors established a forum devoted to redress the seemingly endless moral anarchy that western civilization had bequeathed.  As the Allied forces poured into Berlin behind the Red Armies advance, Roosevelt’s dream of an international security organization, conceived in the heat of war, began taking shape.  On April 12, thirteen days before the opening conference in San Francisco, Roosevelt died.  The United Nations remains the personal creation and achievement of two men, Roosevelt and Russian born economist Leo Pasvolsky.  Both men sought a centralized world body devoted to averting the calamity that befell the west beginning in Sarajavo. Both wanted a global organization hewed from the political, moral heritage underwriting the wests achievement of political liberty.  The Charter, written while the war was raging, took the wartime alliance as the basis for the framework embodying collective security.

Upon taking office, Harry Truman kept in his wallet, the visionary verses from Tennyson’s Lockley Hall, that culminates in the lines:

                            “Till the war drum throbbed no longer

                              and the battle flags were furl’d

                              In the Parliament of Man,

                              The Federation of the World.”

The achievement of 70 years of faithful inheritance, of bearing witness, of promoting reconciliation among belligerents remains unprecedented.  The achievement in a perspective seeking symmetry between ethics and national self-interest is unique in the annals of man’s self governance.  Seventy years of questioning the inviolability of sovereign states is worthy of remembrance.  For if a sovereign state can’t make multinational companies conform to its tax laws, can’t ignore international regulations on air traffic safety or food manufacture, and can’t block the cross-border flow of money and goods without facing the wrath of various international agencies and banking authorities, why are we so quick to acknowledge its right to rape and murder its own citizens? 

Clearly their remains much work to do, for the challenges threatening a viable U.N. Charter are bred from within nation states.  For the most significant problems bearing upon international relations today have to do with the moral foundations of society.  Of trends, beliefs and practices unalloyed from threatening idealisms. Of firm secular beliefs that progress continues unabated, tied to a forward moving positivism, seeking permanent rupture of ethics from the created order.  Of policy convictions hewed from a morally undifferentiated pluralism; a tyranny of ideas is among us now, where shall the refugee find solace?

The word amnesty is derived from amnesia, literally ‘to forget‘.  Forget the spirits crushed, the lovers parted, the secrets betrayed; forget the prison cells, the bloods walls, the shallow graves.  Forget the fear and the emptiness, the torment and the vapidity.  Forget the sound of the pistol being cocked, then fired, forget the petty sneer of the enemy.  For many, whenever the dawn of freedom has broken, but the memories of the long night remain, – the question is the same, seek peace or seek justice. 

For 70 Years the UN has welcomed those un-housed in this world:  Welcome Home.

http://www.Diplomatist.com  October 2015


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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