Sunday, December 6, 2009

Human Rights Sunday in Korea

The second Sunday of Advent is the 28th Human Rights Sunday in Korea. Since we are made in the image of God we should have respect for each other and show this in the way we live.

It is an absolute value and sadly to say the Catholic Times editorial says the Church in Korea has at times diluted its meaning.

The editorial mentions the many ways Korean society has trampled on these God given rights. The bishops' Justice and Peace Committee mentioned the indiscriminate plans for development, the Yongsan tragedy, discrimination in the work place, the 4 river development plans: few of the many ways of casting doubt on the dignity of the human person.

Not in an obvious manner, there is an individualism in our society that does not have concern for the weak and searches for its own good. The respect that we have for the weaker members of our society is a good yard stick of our maturity.

Catholics have an obligation to get involved when we see the human rights of the weak being trampled on.

Because human rights are relational, they can come into conflict. One person's right to work could interfere with another's right to a healthy environment. One person's right to private property could clash with another's right to food or shelter. Three (3) principles of Catholic social teaching should govern public decisions in such situations.

1. The needs of the poor take priority over the wants of the rich

2. The freedom of the dominated takes priority over the liberty of the powerful

3. The participation of marginalized groups takes priority over the preservation of a political order which excludes them


The above are taken from Catholic Social teaching. In Korea the ordinary layperson would not have the sensitivity to the plight of the weak and alienated. This is possibly the failure of those in pastoral work to teach but it is also in many cases not an area where the Catholics feel their Catholicism needs to be activated. We have many priests who are active but not all our parishioners look upon that activism with a benevolent eye. It may be a question of degree but the Catholics are not too upset with the problems of our society. After Vatican II, the theologians were discussing whether human rights were essential, constitutive, integral, or a fundamental part of our belief . A great deal of time and effort was expended but what ever name we give it, clearly it is an important part of Jesus' teaching.

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