“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the path of our God.”

Isaiah 40:3

International Human Rights Day – Thursday, 10 December 2020

Isaiah 40:1-11

In these Advent days, we remind ourselves in a very special way that it is not so much Christ’s birth that we await. That has happened in history and we surely celebrate that pivotal event. In another sense, it is our new birth that we await, our lives coming into its fullness so that we might be like the One who was sent. While we wait, we grow into the fullness of what we are called to be, through making the rough places smooth and making the crooked paths straight. In other words, we grow in and through an environment that allows us to be fully human.

We ponder that truth, especially on this Human Rights Day. We can all name what is rough and crooked in our contexts; those inequalities and injustices that dehumanise our sisters and brothers and that destroy human dignity.

Pope Francis reminded us in August this year amidst the pandemic that dignity has essential social, economic and political consequences. He said: “While we work for the cure of a virus that affects everyone without distinction, faith urges us to work seriously and actively to fight indifference in the face of violations of human dignity.”

We cannot under the guise of the pandemic, deny people their right to a just wage, to the security of residence, to the protection of the law. Nor can we arbitrarily rescind fundamental rights. It is easy amidst such global catastrophes to abandon rights in the name of an urgent cause. This is an assault on the dignity of people. We saw attempts to exclude asylum seekers and migrants from social benefits during the pandemic. These infringements on a culture of human rights must be strenuously resisted.

Indeed what we do to the least of our sisters and brothers, we do to Christ. Human rights remain a testimony to the degree to which we have internalised and given public expression to the Golden Rule.


May we never waiver in doing to others what we would have them do to us.


Fr Peter-John Pearson

Peter-John Pearson is a priest of the Archdiocese of Cape Town. He is currently the director of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO) in Cape Town. Fr Pearson is a well-known lecturer and speaker - specifically on Catholic Social Teaching.

peter-john.pearson@jesuitinstitute.org.za @peterjohncplo
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