Following a pathway of peace made brighter by his Christian faith, former President Jimmy Carter was heard to say “The advancement of human rights around the world was a cornerstone of foreign policy and U.S. leadership for decades“ … until the attacks on our country on Sept. 11, 2001 (WP, Jimmy Carter, December 10, 2008; Page A25).
Since that horrific event, Carter observed that while Americans continue to espouse freedom and democracy, “our government's abusive practices have undermined struggles for freedom in many parts of the world.” Our politics have interfered with our peace processes.
Abusive practices at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay cost the United States its mantle as a champion of human rights. Our internal political struggles eliminated much of our national ability to speak credibly on the subject and have resulted in a global backlash against democracy, leaving human rights activists targets of abusive scorn.
Noting the need for the advancement of human rights and democracy, for global stability, Carter further noted that the United States should lead, not impede--as the outgoing administration has done.
If the early warnings of human rights activists had been heeded and tough diplomacy and timely intervention mobilized, the horrific, and in some cases ongoing, violence in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan's Darfur region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo might have been averted. With the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights now history, the new administration can follow up by following through on its promises of a new vision from the White House. The opportunity to move boldly to restore the moral authority behind the worldwide human rights movement is now.
A new year and a new administration offers people of faith from all religions a time to agree together on the common good of humanity. Only when peaceable people of good will unite can the challenges of selfish, sectarianism, and selfish greed be challenged and confronted. The moral footprint of the United States has always been vast but it will take respectful bilateral dialogues on the protection of human rights as central to world peace and prosperity.
Dwight Eisenhower said it as only a soldier could say it: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
As a Christ follower struggling for civil rights, Martin Luther King expressed it this way: “We meet the forces of hate with the power of love … We must say to our white brothers all over the South, we will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering … Bomb our homes and we will still love you … We will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process.”
No where has the power of love been more powerfully proclaimed than in the Gospel according to Jesus: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light (John 3:19-21).