One of the arguments swirling round the Dale Farm issue is that the travellers threatened with eviction from their site are having their human rights undermined – the human right to live as they wish; to travel if they want and stay if they want; to have land provided for them as a travellers’ site.
It made me think about human rights, the law and faith. We might argue that everyone has a ‘human right’ to live to the fullness of their capacity, with food, shelter, freedom, education, a job, and so on. But the state can only do so much. It has to protect competing ‘rights’ through law. The unemployed can protest about the government not creating an economic climate which would provide them with a job, but not about it breaching their human rights thereby.
And what about faith and human rights? The vocation of a Christian is to become fully human, but it’s not about human rights. Christ did not promise food, shelter or security – or freedom and equality for that matter – to his disciples. They were more likely to lose their lives than preserve them. The thrust of the gospel is that you do everything you can to protect and promote others’ security and wellbeing, whilst being unconcerned about your own.
And yet that sounds wrong, somehow.