Human rights abuses still happening

Published September 1, 1998

In a report both horrifying and compelling, the part of Section 1 which focused on human rights challenged the Anglican Communion to continue its heritage as a church of peacemakers and prophets.

In their seven-page report, the 46 bishops in the sub-section tell chilling tales of abuses around the world – women raped, children sold into slavery, mass killings in churches, whole communities driven off their land. They include graphic descriptions of inhumanity, such as the story one bishop told of young people who traveled to Sudan from Uganda for his consecration.

“On their return they were arrested and their left ears cut off because they were not `listening to the words of the Koran,'” he said. “Before they were released they were forced to eat their own ears.”

In the 50th anniversary year of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the bishops expressed shock about how war and violence, racism and abuse of economic and political power continue to severely victimize women and children. From Sudan, Uganda, South East Asia, Sri Lanka “and across the countries of the `South’ [came] accounts of the sexual torture and genital mutilation of women, and the inability or unwillingness of people to fight for its elimination … These abuses of basic rights and dignity of people loved by God and created in God’s image, bring shame on the whole human community,” the report said.

The report mentions the widening gap between rich and poor, indigenous people and their need for advocacy, the downside of the global economy, the devastating effect of war-arms trade, landmines, displaced and uprooted peoples. It also asserts the “urgent need” to preserve the rights of all people to freedom of belief and conscience.

In addition, the report spells out the “sinful consequences” of racist and cultural divisions: genocide in Rwanda, communities threatened with annihilation and Sri Lankans who “disappear.” It names racism a “heretical ideology,” a “false religion” and a threat to peace, and it reminds Anglicans of their history as peacemakers and witnesses who accepted no such injustice.

“Anglicans … have been and are being martyred,” the report states. “We think of the martyrdom of the late Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum … the faithful witness of Archbishop George Browne at the height of the civil war in Liberia … the prophetic witness of Desmond Tutu in oppostion to apartheid in South Africa … the peace efforts of the Anglican bishops in Jerusalem … Bishop Dinis Sengulane in Mozambique.”

Finally, the report calls the communion to go beyond living and preaching the Gospel to protect human rights by monitoring activities of governments and by providing the prophetic witness only the “church as moral community” can.

Seven resolutions followed the report, the first of which calls on members of the Lambeth Conference to urge compliance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the extension of its provisions to “refugees, uprooted and displaced persons.”

Other resolutions call for religious freedom and tolerance, justice for women and children, “a faithful response to aggression and war” and a revitalization of the Anglican Communion International Migrant and Refugee Network.

The bishops also ask the Communion to “provide technology, equipment, vehicles and administrative support” in response to the urgent situation in Sudan and Rwanda.


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