Today is International Human Rights Day , a worthy cause to celebrate, indeed. There is still much work to be done, of course, and of late activists seem to be focusing a lot on slavery, migrants and women’s rights. More specific to Jamaica, I would say that education about basic human rights is the most pressing issue. In many inner-city communities, the concept of human rights is a foreign one, literally. A couple of years ago, working with Youth Opportunities Unlimited, we embarked on a campaign in Rockfort, in which people walked around and handed out pamphlets to this effect. For example, it informed readers that they have a right not to be searched by the police, and that they were not required to let them into their homes without a warrant. It was called “Know Yuh Rights”. (Here is Jamaicans For Justice on the issue, and I posted this informative web page aimed at youth on YOU’s Facebook page today).
Human rights also focus a lot on the LGBTQ population. Case in point, this past weekend a priest at an Anglican Church called Father Sean washed the feet of two self-identified lesbians during a morning service. Some people thought this was terrible and amounted to a “take-over” of the church. Here is the Priest, Father Sean Major-Campbell talking about his sermon:
“The essence of the message is that God cares about those who suffer injustice and persecution. The message at Advent also notes that worship without justice is dead! In the Church, we have tended to do a good job talking about justice and praying about it, but the time has come for us to understand that ‘we have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds have become like a filthy cloth’.
“Many of the influential and so-called learned persons in the halls of power in this country are a brood of vipers, religious though they may be. Jamaica is not short of persons with the ability to heal and inspire, but like the Pharisees and Sadduccees, many, like vipers, wait coiled in silence. They wait to strike but never to be an agent of healing and wisdom.”
A brave and kind man, to be sure, to take up this issue in a nation where people from the LGBTQ community, and sex workers, are thought to be less deserving of basic human rights. With people like Father Major-Campbell taking these risks, as well as groups like Jamaicans for Justice, J-FLAG and the Colour Pink Group, Jamaica will one day be a country in which all citizens do enjoy all the promises of the International Declaration of Human Rights.