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Oh freedom over me

4 April 2012

In my youth we used to sing a song popularised by Pete Seeger on his record We shall overcome:

Oh Freedom! Oh Freedom!
Oh Freedom, over me!
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.

It was a kind of whistling in the dark when we could see no light at the end of the tunnel.

No, this is not another of my Tales from Dystopia — those are about the past South Africa under apartheid. This one is about a present and future dystopia.

Do you remember the Annus Mirabilis 0f 1989?

That was the year in which freedom was breaking out all over as dictators toppled in many countries, including P.W. Botha in South Africa. People rejoiced at the end of the “evil empire”.

Those now in their teens and twenties are probably too young to remember it.

Those were the years when we said or sang:

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion: then were we like unto them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter: and our tongue with joy.
Then said they among the heathen: the Lord hath done great things for them.
Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already: whereof we rejoice
Turn our captivity, O Lord: as the rivers in the South.
He that now goeth on his way weeping, and beareth good seed: shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him.
(Psalm 125/126, Coverdale translation)

But now, The evil empire is dead, long live the evil empire. Or, as they said in Star Wars, “The Empire Strikes back”.

After the fall of many dictatorships, those who ran them were often accused of gross human rights violations, and the evil deeds of many, performed in secret, were brought to light.

But now many of the countries that regarded themselves as part of the “Free World” and as champions of the cause of freedom are beginning to worship the gods of the beaten enemy, and to impose restrictions on freedom.

One egregious example is the way in which the Australian media openly and shamelessly write about “suspected asylum seekers”, as if seeking asylum were a crime — see, for example Suspected asylum-seeker boat arrives | thetelegraph.com.au. Yet The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which I believe Australia has signed, says: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

A blogger in Britain writes The Poor Mouth: I woke up yesterday and found myself in North Korea: “Yesterday Theresa May announced plans to give police and security services the power to monitor the email traffic and internet use of every person in Britain. Today quite rightly she woke up to a barrage of criticism from across the political spectrum and from civil liberties groups.” Yet I believe the UK has also signed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

And the ANC government in South Africa is passing similar legislation, and its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is as bad as Australia’s, if not worse.

And so we see those who claimed to be the champions of freedom, those who called themselves “the Free World”, becoming enemies for freedom, and whittling away at human rights.

How should Christians respond to the concept of “human rights”?

A Christian blogger in the USA, Phil Wyman, wrote recently:

Funny how this month’s Pub Theology in Salem is about the influence of human rights issues on theology. But it is just a coincidence I am sure, and has no divine connection to it – good illustrations though.🙂 If anyone has thoughts on that to share I would be more than excited to mull over the issue of humans rights/theology mashup going on in our world
today.

A few years ago there was a Synchroblog (synchronised blog) on Human Rights, and you can find my contribution at Human Rights and Christian faith, with links to the other posts, though I’m not sure if all the links will still work after all these years.

Perhaps, in the light of what Phil Wyman says, there is a need for another synchroblog, specifically on “the humans rights/theology mashup going on in our world”, though I’m not sure that I would say anything much different from what I said the first time around.

If anyone else sees a need for this, please let me know, either by a comment below or by e-mail, and if there are enough people willing to participate we could hold a synchroblog specifically on the topic of “theology and human rights”, suggested date 26 April, which is after Pascha/Easter. Let me know, but do check some of the posts in the original synchroblog to see if there is anything new to say.

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