From December, 2016

Imagine a Free & Equal World: International Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day and a celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

“Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of discrimination and violence against LGBT persons and their families, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles, a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards and moral imperatives with which all States should recognize.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 and the Yogykarta Principles from 2006, help us imagine a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil that precious birthright.

The United Nations Free and Equal campaign created this wonderful Bollywood video featuring Celina Jaitly, Equality Champion, The Welcome. This film captures the heart and spirit of human dignity and these human rights principles we remember on this day. Our hope, prayer and work is that this story will be the reality for every LGBT person and their family some day soon. We are all children of God and one human family.

Photo: LGBT rights march in El Salvador. Courtesy of Amnesty International.

World AIDS Day: Compassion & Prevention

December 1 is World AIDS Day. This is a day to raise awareness about HIV, to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV, to remember loved ones we have lost to HIV, and to work together to end HIV around the world.

We commemorate World AIDS Day 2016 by standing in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV. And, we remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported in the early 1980’s.

In spite of the progress that has been made against HIV over the past 15 years with the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010. Moreover, there has been resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world.

2.79 billion people live in countries that criminalize homosexuality. Criminalization of one’s personhood, sexuality or gender expression makes one more vulnerable to HIV infection and less likely to receive adequate, even life-saving healthcare. The criminalization of homosexuality is a concern for civil society, a violation of both human dignity and human rights, and a public health concern.

Around the world, conservative political and religious ideology creates a climate of fear, stigmatization and persecution of LGBT persons and their families. This climate hinders public health initiatives and places LGBT persons in harm’s way with regard to HIV, joblessness and poverty.

Prevention is the international focus for World AIDS Day 2016 for UNAIDS. We have proven methods of prevention of infection. Significant barriers to prevention are criminalization of homosexuality and stigma. Faith voices and faith communities can and should make a difference by speaking out against criminalization and addressing stigma. Compassion is the way forward. We are all children of God and one human family.